Every story has the right to be heard

Everyone has a story to tell.

There are fun stories, like the time you and your friends drove up to Chicago to see Santa. There are the boring ones that induce heavy eye-rolling and a snarky “good story, bro.” There are the ones you wish you didn’t tell in front of your boss, because of slight inappropriateness (for all past and future employees … this isn’t me. I am a saint).

And then there are the unpleasant stories. They’re the stories that you prefer to keep locked up in your chamber of secrets. These are hard stories to tell. But they need to come out. Not for the shock value or a good sob story. But because they’re important.

This Tuesday, Jamie Tworkowski, the founder of To Write Love on Her Arms, came to campus to talk about the grand trifecta of saddening topics: suicide, depression and addiction. His speech, as expected, was good. But one thing he said really stood out: Everyone has a story to tell.

As a journalism major, this is a no-brainer. We go around asking people to tell us about their lives, and we record little tidbits of sound and speeches, all for the sake of a good story. I myself have heard about 30 people’s stories for J400 alone.

But what I think I’m guilty of is not listening, like really listening. Without the mics and the notepad, and with the intent of listening to care. I admire people who can do this with ease. But it’s not enough to admire them. I — and more students — need to listen to loved ones and encourage them to talk about the tough stories.

Tworkowski’s also started off his speech by disclaiming that suicide, depression and addiction were topics that are rarely touched on. I tried to mentally prove him wrong and remember the last time I’ve been in an honest and frank discussion about suicide … and I had to go a while back.

It seems like no one talks about it in college. We’re at an age where we’re “supposed” to have our act together, and no one wants to admit that they don’t.

But obviously, suicide in college doesn’t just magically disappear. According to a study done by the Office of Mental Health, 1,100 students die each year from suicide. And 11 percent of college students have seriously considered suicide in the past year. I don’t know about you, but that’s 1,100 and 11 percent of kids too many.

Here on campus we have a vast array of services, from the Counseling Center to the TWLOHA-UIUC branch itself. But these only go so far. At the risk of sounding cliché, the first step to recovery is talking about the problem. And at the risk of sounding morally pious, the first step to a loved one’s recovery is just to listen.

I’m not saying that we should go around depressed and inwardly devastated 24/7. But I am saying that we can’t sweep these problems under the rug forever. Sitting with someone or hashing out problems may not magically fix anything. But it’s a good start.

Everyone has a story to tell. And everyone has the capability to listen. Will you be brave enough to do both?

_Tolu is a junior in Media._