Finding meaning in the unthinkable

Mental Health week unearths difficult memories about suicide


Katie Fox

The flags that Student Government places in Tribble courtyard takes on new meaning when you know someone the flag represents.

Alyssa Soltren, Staff Writer

 “But she’s so smart and hardworking.” 

“But she has rosy cheeks and a soft, bright smile.” 

“But we shared notes with each other in Anatomy class.” 

These were just a few waves of the tsunami of thoughts rushing through my head. They came after my sister checked her phone one summer afternoon and suddenly couldn’t stop saying, “holy s***.” Then she read the message to me. And just like that, my old classmate and friend was gone. 

The next few hours of that day just went on. I messaged my other friends. My sister told our dad, who then came to me to ask if I knew anything. I had to tell my mom. Throughout all of this, a horrifying thought attempted to break loose. 

When I received another message from my friend who had found out more, this thought was set free to rampage throughout my mind and memories. She made an attempt on her own life, and she couldn’t escape it this time. Reading the details made me think more of her mother. I wasn’t there, but I could clearly hear the screaming and sobbing. 

The very next day, I heard a song in the mall that was painfully ironic in both its message and its reminder of her. The day after that, I realized that I had never considered that my first high school reunion would be at a funeral. The sight of her released a whirlwind of emotions, most notably anger, but I still don’t know to this day whom I was angry at. 

We offered our condolences and any other words we could muster to her family, and then we had to leave. I had to get myself ready to move back onto campus for my second year of college. 

I took a picture of her with me. My Notes app was filled with as many details I could remember about her over the course of 12 years. I became more motivated to pay extra attention in Abnormal Psychology class, and not just because I had declared Psychology as my major. 

I researched bipolar disorder. Constant doubts nagged me about whether I deserved to call her my friend. I wrote a letter to her mother. I haven’t yet experienced a day where she didn’t cross my mind. There are pieces of her everywhere, like in the studious enthusiasm of a classmate, the sweet intonation of a passing girl’s voice or in the blonde fade of another girl’s hair. 

But none of these things could reverse what had already happened. 

Mental Health Week took place this past week. It certainly felt a bit different for me this year than it did last year. This time, the little colored flags so carefully arranged in Tribble Courtyard meant something else. My friend’s death became one of those orange flags, but according to the sign, she was only one of a thousand college students within that flag. 

And there were hundreds of orange flags. I wondered how many of them were planted thanks to social and academic pressures on top of pre-existing mental illnesses. 

When I visited her social media account, I wasn’t there to unfollow. I just wanted to look around and know more about what she enjoyed. That’s how I found the location tag of one of her posts, titled “Somewhere in Time.” 

I realized that she was right. Somewhere in time, we’re acting out a made-up story on the playground. Somewhere in a classroom, we’re racing each other to finish a math problem first. Somewhere else, we’re posing together in our graduation gowns for our mothers who take an exorbitant amount of pictures. 

With every accomplishment and kind remark, she made sure that she was a crucial part of the timelines of so many family members, friends and teachers. 

Society needs to pay more attention. The suicide rate of adolescents and young adults has been on the rise, resulting in the alarming amount of orange flags and perpetually swollen red eyes of parents. 

All of these people should have had more time to journey through life. There were more goals to achieve and new ideas to consider and cultivate. There were other people for them to discover and share a world with. So many things were lost along with my friend’s passing, but her true legacy should not be how she left the world. 

She was a wonderful person who loved good things and was desperate to escape the immense pressure and pain. Her joy, virtues and desires are what we should bring to other people who need it. 

Even though she’s no longer here, she can still help others stay around if only we learn how to help. We need more conversations and understanding, more research and solutions, more remembrances and preventions. So I’ll continue to remember things like her warm brown eyes, her love for Disney songs and her dream to become a teacher. 

I don’t want the lights within to be extinguished too soon for anyone else. 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 


Crisis Text Line: 


University Counseling Center Crisis Assistance: 


For life-threatening emergencies call 911.