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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Last Wednesday, a freshman residing in North Hall decided to take his own life. As of writing, this is the only information that has been released publicly.

Although no one in the Alligator knew this individual, we are saddened by their passing, as some of us have been "there." For those of you fortunate enough to have never been "there," it is the place where all seems lost and the challenges of daily life become insurmountable. When you’re "there," even simple tasks like completing your assignments or getting out of bed become frightening prospects.

Being "there" sucks; when you’re "there," it becomes impossible to conceive a life that isn’t beset by disappointment and failure. Even with the help of supportive family and friends it can be difficult, if not outright impossible, to see life through any lens but one of despair.

The fact that mental health has become a larger part of the national conversation in recent years has been a tremendous development, but realistically, it isn’t enough. As positive as initiatives like sex columnist Dan Savage’s "It Gets Better Project" are, they operate primarily in platitudes rather than the everyday realities of depression and suicidal ideation.

Here’s the truth: Life IS a struggle. Beyond the conventional definitions of what qualifies as a "struggle," — taxing schoolwork, improving one’s habits or body — even in the mundane and inane motions of everyday life, it can be hard as hell to see a "point" to it all.

The thing is, there is a profound beauty in struggle. Struggle not only tests and shapes our character, but it makes all the wonderful things in life — those 3 a.m. heart-to-hearts, the personal breakthroughs and the private joys — that much more fulfilling. When all you’ve known is happiness and accomplishment, a personal failure can seem like the end of the road. But for those who’ve grappled with depression and come out the other side OK, they know better than to let their failures define them.

It takes some people decades to make this realization — many never do. We at the Alligator understand no amount of sermonizing or preaching alone can change one’s perspective on life, ESPECIALLY if they’re a bull-headed college student. But for those of you who are "there" or struggling, not only are you far from alone, but also you’re not doing "it" — "it" of course being this grand thing we call life — wrong. As a matter of fact, you may prove to be the strongest person of all.

It is no secret that the mental health care provided by UF leaves much to be desired — that’s another editorial for another time. In the meantime, those who need a helping hand right now have several tools at their disposal, including the services offered by U Matter, We Care and the Counseling and Wellness Center. Both offer email, phone and physical services to those who need it.

We as a society need to recontextualize and rethink the way we approach struggle. Yes, it sucks, it’s painful and, if we were being honest with ourselves, we could do without it. But rather than stigmatizing and denying the very real struggles we all go through, which in turn pushes people further and further inward, the time has come for us to wear our inner battles on our sleeves.

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