Friends, family hope Weaver's death will raise mental health awareness
November 26, 2012As the second student death this quarter shakes the Northwestern community, Weinberg junior Alyssa Weaver’s friends and family want to use the latest tragedy to remind others of the importance of speaking up on issues of mental health.
Weaver, 20, committed suicide Wednesday while studying abroad at Goldsmiths College at the University of London. Weaver’s parents informed NU about the manner of death, University spokesman Al Cubbage said.
In a phone interview Monday evening, Weaver’s mother suggested her daughter was dealing with mental health issues.
“She was in a dark place, and she did not let her friends or her family know at this time,” Terri Weaver said.
Terri Weaver said that if nothing else, she wants her daughter’s peers to know they do not have to isolate themselves when coming to grips with mental health issues. And while she was struggling to process her daughter’s death, she wants to let others know that suicide isn’t the only solution.
“It is very sad to us that she couldn’t let anyone know,” Terri Weaver said. “What we want to say to all of the students there is ... if their grief or sadness can do anything positive, we want them to know there are always other options. They should always find someone, anyone to talk to and not hold stuff in.”
Communication junior Brennan Suen is studying at Goldsmiths and met Alyssa during their orientation earlier this fall. He recalled a trip they took to Germany with other students in the program.
“It’s just really shocking because this girl, she had such a memorable smile, and God, we just had so much fun when we were in Berlin,” Suen said. “We were laughing the whole time and she was so positive and so fun. I mean, no one had any idea (she was dealing with mental health issues).”
Suen said Weaver’s suicide highlights the need for more open discussion about depression and mental health. He said it was important to be able to talk freely about Alyssa’s death and not to brush it off so that other people who are suffering will remain in the dark.
He added that it was even more important to be able to have conversations about mental health while abroad, when the distance from home, family and friends makes available resources not as immediate or obvious. Feeling any kind of depression on top of those stressors is cause for concern, he said.
“You realize how easy it is not to know something like that about someone,” Suen said. “But you realize that none of her friends, none of her flatmates knew ... so the fact that she was going through all of that alone and that she didn’t get to speak up about it here.”
NU students with mental health concerns can utilize a variety of campus resources, including Counseling and Psychological Services; student groups such as NU Active Minds, which aims to spread awareness about mental health; or NU’s Students of AMF, which helps students through the process of grieving a loved one’s illness or death.
“So many people on campus have mental health struggles, but it’s not really talked about,” said Katie Sanford, co-president of NU Active Minds. “This is an issue that is OK to talk about. It’s actually better to talk about it so people are not afraid to ask for help.”
Suen said although no one can be blamed for Weaver’s death, the community can take the initiative to help others who feel as she did to come forward and seek help.
“It’s no one’s fault,” Suen said. “It’s not Northwestern’s at all or Study Abroad. Depression is a chemical imbalance, but there’s just a lot of stigma. People can’t say, ‘Oh, I’m on antidepressants, I’m depressed,’ because people aren’t willing to have those conversations ... But it’s something that we can be better about.”