By Jack Davis ’19
Engineered by Freddy Soto ’18, the Stop the Stigma campaign is presenting the Brophy community a week of advocacy, including presentations at lunch and a prayer service.
Soto said that the purpose of the movement is to allow kids the opportunity to come and talk about how they truly feel when no one is around.
“Too often, we tend to suffer in silence when it comes to dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, OCD, you name it,” he said. “This club is meant to break that silence and bring it into the light.”
“We have seen so many famous people like Kanye West, Demar DeRozan, Katy Perry and many more who have come out to speak on how the stigma kept them suffering in silence,” he added.
Soto said that he was motivated to start the movement due to his mother’s struggle with schizophrenia.
“Seeing her struggle with schizophrenia really changed my life,” Soto said. “I came sick and tired of seeing her suffer as well as everyone surrounding me when my nineteen year old cousin tried committing suicide.”
“Suicide is something close to my heart because I have close friends who just wish they stopped living,” Soto added. “Yet, they are putting on these smiles and laughs to hide the unimaginable pain we all go through on a daily basis. We need to change as a community and it takes work from everyone, not just the select few.”
Ludwig Saint-Fleur ’19 said that he joined the movement because of his own personal experience with mental illness.
“My family has a lot of issues with mental health and specifically severe depression and alcoholism,” he said. “Me, personally, I would push off my issues and see myself as a whiner for everything I was feeling. It culminated into a big episode of severe depression … I’ve tried to learn about mental health and learn about myself through that.”
Soto said that love is the sole thing that keeps him going.
“Struggling with depression has crippled me from time to time and smiling has become a chore, but the love my family and friends give me is the reason I wake up every morning happy to be alive,” he said. “Just feeling that joy in my heart echo all around me lets me do anything I can possibly dream of, and I want everyone to feel that too.”
Annika Nielson ’18 said that her primary motivation for sharing her story was to let her peers know that it’s okay to be open and vulnerable.
“I was able to show that I am a person any Brophy or Xavier student can talk to if they feel alone,” she said. “It is important to take off the mask that so many of us, because of school and societal pressures, feel forced to hide behind. I hope this week brought people together and demonstrated that nobody has to suffer alone.”
“Also, a mental illness does not define a person and we are so much more than a label,” she added. “My hope is that this week will become a tradition for years to come and that both Brophy and Xavier will create safe and accepting communities where students can come together and not be ashamed to talk about what they go through.”
Soto said that, as of now, Brophy Advocacy Club has shown interest in taking over the campaign for next year.
“The club is barely beginning and I would love to pass it on to a Brophy and Xavier student next year,” Soto said. “As of now the fate of the club and the campaign is not established.”