"When I was 14, Brittany Marie Petrocca took her own life. Though we were not best friends, she was entwined in my community, and I in hers. We had quite a few mutual friends, and the blow hit us all hard. There were tons of 14-year-old students who were left not knowing how to grieve, because nobody wanted to talk about it. Her high school refused to bring in a presentation on suicide prevention, they wouldn’t memorialize her, and they wouldn’t even speak her name. I saw the impact on a family and a community — but mostly, I saw how people can come together in the aftermath of a tragedy. Most of us just want someone to look at them and acknowledge them, maybe smile and say, “You are not alone.” How do we do this? Through words. Through language.
LETS has started an incredible amount of campaigns and resources for a community in need of a family. We have established curricular programs, parent education conferences, support groups, a 24 hour crisis line run completely through mobile phones and computers, peer leader programs, student-led chapters school protocol, and my personal favorite, the LETS Be Kind Initiative. We started having self-harmers mail a letter and their self-harm tools to my house. As a self-harmer, I know that no parent, no therapist, and no friend will stop this addiction. Through this letter writing and freeing of the tools, it is the person taking a step in their life, and making a decision. We have received over 500 submissions, and we receive more every day. Each letter is responded to with a personal letter from me, and sometimes we even keep in continuous contact. It is a miracle to meet someone who has miraculously managed to survive themselves, and each day we treat it as such.
“I am so glad you are here. I am so glad you are alive. I am so glad you are getting better. I am so glad to have met you.”
If we began to more freely share our stories of struggle, defeat, victory, and overcoming, things would be so different. Consider how much more we would relate to one another, how much less isolated and alone we would feel going through our own experiences, and how much more purpose we would realize we have in offering our stories, which are completely unique—and yet, entirely relatable. It is in these moments with these people — when I can speak to an entire audience who understands me, that I realize the most valuable lesson of all. Regardless of circumstance, past experience, culture, race — everyone has the power to relate to one another. It’s the foundation of humanity, and these conversations are the common threads of our hearts, which we uncover when we feel another’s pain or joy. An impression is forever left in our lives, and each person finds courage to walk on and act as a messenger, carrying the other’s stories in our hearts. This foundation fosters understanding and enables hope. No matter how small the conversation, community is created and thrives within the smallest of exchanges. Our similarities are greater than our differences. We each have a story to tell. Each is unique, valuable, and carries the power to completely change the lives of people we love. Share yours." - Stefanie Lyn Kaufman