Finding hope, finding life

White Oak student shares her mission
     Being healthy goes beyond sticking to a workout or a diet plan. Individuals often find themselves struggling with the concept of mental health, as well.
     According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep, appetite and mood changes, lack of energy, concentration
issues, increased sensitivity, a disconnected feeling, and general nervousness are often indicators of mental disorders. Due to the alarming growth in the number of cases of mental illness, organizations such as “To Write Love On Her Arms” have been on the rise.

    “It is normal to go through phases where one is noticeably affected by something and anxiety is manifested,” said

Maria Fernanda Lobato, former counselor of INVEDIN (Venezuelan Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Teenagers). However, when one starts behaving in a drastically different way from what is usual when one notices changes both physically and mentally–such as sudden weight loss or gain, the desire to stay in bed for the whole day and become a sedentary person, then it is imperative to search for help immediately. Time plays an
important factor when it comes to this; if sadness lasts longer than three to six months, then psychological help becomes a necessity, not an option,” Lobato said.
    Lauren White, a White Oak sophomore majoring in biology/pre-med, has dedicated her life to raising awareness of the dangers of mental disorders after hitting and surviving the lowest point of her life.

    “TWLOHA is a non-profit organization which serves to advocate and educate society on mental health (targeted

towards depression, anxiety and addiction,) self-harm and suicide,” White said.
     “For the last few years, I have been a volunteer for TWLOHA, using my voice and sharing my story online through social media and then have been an influencer/educator both online and in the community in September of each year for Suicide Prevention Month,” White said.
     According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 Americans commit suicide every year. Here,
White sat down to share her own story.
     “At the age of 11, my family went through a traumatic experience. Even in trying to heal from it, things continued
to spiral out of control between us and then started affecting our lives and routines,” White said. “Regardless of the ‘picture perfect’ family people saw externally, internally there was so much dysfunction. It tore us apart, especially me, as I received a lot of the burdens for what had happened and continued to happen.”
     The stress followed her throughout her pre-teen years. “I felt as if my childhood had been stripped from me. I did not have many people that I could trust,” she said. “There were certain things I simply could not or was told not to, share. This led to me bottling up my emotions and dealing with them on my own. At such a young age, I had to deal with dysfunction, guilt, blame and environmentally toxic, manipulative, abusive situations,” she added.
     “I reached my final breaking point when I was 14,” White recalled. “I let what I had kept bottled up for the last few years consume me. I had spiraled into an intense bout of depression, anxiety, and self-harm in the months before with no relief. I felt that I would never find the help I was looking for. I was exhausted and spent. I was afraid. I
was lost and without hope. I took all of those thoughts and convinced myself that I had nothing left for me; so I began planning for my death by suicide.”
    June 5, 2012, would be the day.
     White attempted to overdose. However, while she was waiting for the drugs to kick in, the reality of what she had done dawned on her.
     ‘I felt a wave take over me that this was not how I was supposed to go,” she said. “I realized what I had done, and that even while feeling so powerless, I had a whole lot more fight in me than I thought.
     “I realized that it was not my place to play God and that He was not done with me. So I forced myself to throw up,” she added.
     According to Suicide Awareness, Voices of Education (SAVE) about a quarter million people in the U.S. become suicide survivors on a yearly basis.
    After trying to end her life, White found the strength to start over again.
     “I forced myself to fight, to seek help anywhere I could find it and to not fear the consequences or backlash from family or friends,” she said. “There was no shame in struggling, nor in seeking help. I told myself that from rock bottom, the only way to go was up. I realized that the journey would never be easy, but that it would be worth it. Progress and healing would not be linear, but on a steady incline as long as I did not give up.”
     White believes she is here today because of the purpose she found in her near-death experience.
     “I found myself reaching out to, and leaning on (TWLOHA), for help and hope when I felt I could not find it elsewhere,” she said. “Their message and movement deeply resonated with me and has since inspired me to seek help for not only myself but for others worldwide.”