Guest speaker brings mental health awareness to Western.

Kayla Curless, Courier Staff

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On Monday, Western Illinois University’s Agriculture Department and the Andrew Wedekind family presented guest speaker Sam Eaton for a Night of Hope.

Eaton is an elementary school music teacher from Minneapolis who started the Recklessly Alive program. Recklessly Alive is a suicide prevention ministry nonprofit. Eaton started the program so people would start a conversation about depression and for people to know that suicide is not the answer.

Eaton has been dealing with his depression since childhood. He grew up with an alcoholic father and dealt with verbal abuse. In high school he never felt good enough and his symptoms got worse from there. Eaton was a 23-year-old college graduate when he contemplated his suicide attempt. He remembers asking himself the question, “have you given life everything you’ve got?” After being unsatisfied with his answer he decided to put down the pills and to live life to the fullest.

Wayne Wedekind, however, lost his son Andrew, to his battle with depression. Andrew was an agriculture student here at Western five years ago when he decided to end his life. Wayne is a 65-year-old hog farmer from Butler, Ill. He spoke at the event and told students about his son’s story and said, “suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem.” What is depression?

Depression is a common but serious mood disorder. Depression is the 10th leading cause of death in adults in the United States. It affects how you think, feel and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating or working. Symptoms of suicide may include: weight gain or loss, irritability, decreased energy or fatigue, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping and thoughts of death or suicide.

Not everyone with depression experiences every symptom. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.

More than just a bout of the blues, depression is not a weakness and you cannot simply “snap out” of it. Even the most severe cases can be treated. The earlier the treatment can begin, the more effective it is. Depression is usually treated with medications, psychotherapy or a combination of both. If you feel depressed, make an appointment to see your doctor or mental health professional as soon as you can.

If you are reluctant to seek treatment, talk to a friend or loved one, any health care professional, a faith leader or someone else you trust. Eaton hopes his talk will start a conversation at Western among students and faculty. He says instead of committing suicide to “do one thing every day that makes your life better or makes the world a better place and photograph it.”

Eaton says that this system helped him through his journey and helped get him to a better place.

If you experience any signs of depression or are thinking of committing suicide there are mental help services you can utilize on campus. The Beu Health Center offers medical and parttime psychiatric services. The University Counseling Center is open Monday through Friday or you can call the WIU student-run hotline at 309.298.3211.

Western Illinois University encourages everyone to be safe and to choose life.

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