In 2012, enduring cyber-bullying and experiencing family issues, 19-year-old Aubrey Woods attempted suicide. Aubrey is not alone. More than 42,000 people die by suicide each year, according to The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
For every suicide, there are 25 attempts, according to the foundation.
During her freshman year of high school, hurtful rumors surfaced about Aubrey’s personal life. After hearing these rumors, students began to call her names and taunt her in the hallways. The bullying eventually spread to the internet and social media.
In an attempt to resolve the situation, Aubrey sought help from her school’s principal. The school attempted to punish the bullies, but that made the situation worse and Aubrey stopped seeking help. She found herself deeply depressed.
“My depression started to worsen, and I began cutting my wrist,” Aubrey said.
Cutting, or self-harm, is a dangerous behavior associated with increased risk of suicide attempts. Research suggests there is an increasing trend toward self-harm and as many as 15 percent of adolescents nationwide are affected.
Aubrey successfully hid her physical and emotional pain until one day she decided to open up about her cutting to her brother, Zane, and their small circle of friends.
Zane was devastated. He understood why his sister was hurting, but he was upset with the way she chose to cope with her pain. He told her that if he were to lose her, he would have nothing left. He would not only lose his sister, but he would also lose his best friend.
After the conversation with her brother, Aubrey stopped cutting herself, but the respite was short-lived.
“I kept feeling mental pain and needed to feel it physically to know it was real. … I imagined the blade being the bullies,” Aubrey said.
Making the situation worse, Aubrey found a new group of friends who were also harming themselves.
One day during her school counseling sessions, Aubrey’s counselor noticed the cuts on her wrist. She immediately contacted Aubrey’s mother, Shea.
During the late 70s, Shea also cut herself, and she was now seeing Aubrey making the same mistakes she did. She wanted better for her daughter and sought help for her.
“Parents, I would say to you, listen to your children, watch their behavior. You are the best judge of your child. Talk to their friends, know them too. If you notice your child is not acting like themselves, talk about it. Get them some counseling, through the school or your own privately. Do not let depression take your child’s life away,” she said.
Despite these interventions and counseling sessions, the situation worsened and the bullying became unbearable.
It was then, Aubrey decided to end her life.
She receded to her room, wrote a suicide letter and ingested a handful of pills.
Zane sensed something was wrong; he felt it in his gut. He checked on Aubrey in her room and discovered what she had done. He immediately notified their parents.
“This may not be the right thing to of done, but we went to Walmart and got her something to make her vomit. … That’s all it took for me. From then on, I stuck by her side through it all,” Shea said.
Aubrey knew she hurt her family with the suicide attempt, but she didn’t realize the depth of pain her actions would cause them until her junior year of high school when her best friend Danielle ended her life.
“I could never put my friends and family through it. I learned people were there for me and I didn’t have to feel alone,” Aubrey said.
With this new awareness, Aubrey found a new purpose in life. She decided to be the first person in her family to attend college. She applied to Reinhardt and was accepted.
“I knew she was special while I was still carrying her. I knew she was going to college one day; I just felt it,” Shea said.
Aubrey persevered through many difficult road blocks, but one more was standing in her way. Despite her acceptance to Reinhardt, Aubrey didn’t have the money to enroll. Searching for a solution, she attempted to enlist in the Army Reserve, hoping they could help pay for college, but due to a previous surgery, she didn’t meet the qualifications. She then started a GoFundMe account and hosted yard sales to raise money. Her efforts paid off and she raised the money she needed.
Now a freshman at Reinhardt, Aubrey is focused on achieving her career goals.
“My major is Communication. … I want to become a journalist. There is so much bad news reported, I want to be the person who reports positive news,” Aubrey said. “I’m a huge football fan. I was a football manager all four years of high school. So, I’m considering possibly being a sports journalist. I hope to one day be on TV.”
In addition to her focus on school, Aubrey hopes to use her experiences to help others.
“There are so many people out there suffering from depression and feeling like they are alone, and I hope when they read this they see that they aren’t. So many people go through the same thing. I wanted to do it so I could show that no one is alone,” Aubrey said.
Aubrey has started her outreach efforts here on campus. Reinhardt students, like many other college students, face many stressful situations. It’s important that any suicidal statement or gesture made by any student be taken seriously and reported to a Reinhardt staff member.
“Staff in the Student Life Department strive to identify students who may be suicidal through awareness, education and wellness initiatives,” said Derek Struchtemeyer, Reinhardt’s Director of Counseling Services. “Therefore students are able to recognize suicidal ideas in themselves or in their peers and refer to our counseling services. We also strive to make it clear that any faculty, staff or student may refer a student they are concerned about to our counseling office.”
Students seeking help can contact Derek via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (770) 720-5549. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.
Important Information and Resources:
- Overview of self-injury/cutting from the Mayo Clinic
- S.A.F.E. Alternatives: A nationally recognized treatment approach to ending self-injurious behavior.
- StopBullying.gov: A comprehensive resource for information on bullying.
- Suicide is a serious public health issue. Did you know:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Each year 42,773 Americans die by suicide
- For every suicide, there are 25 attempts
- Suicide costs the U.S. $44 Billion annually
To learn more about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, visit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Written By: Matthew Gordon. Photo Credits: Matthew Gordon. Feature Image: Student Aubrey Woods. PSA Video By: Matthew Gordon.