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Hopedale - Local Town Pages

A Will to Live

TW: Mentions of Suicide, Self-Harm, Mental Illness

By Chloe Zhang
As summer comes to an end and students return to school, people often discuss how to manage their course load or how to stay organized during school.
However, the main issue for the students of today’s society is not organization, but rather a more serious issue of suicide and mental illness.
Not only is suicide one of the main causes of death among young adults and adolescents, but it is also an epidemic in itself with an annual growth of up to 30%.
Hopedale was fortunate enough to have John Trautwein, the founder of the “A Will to Live Foundation” talk to the students, staff, and parents about the struggles of mental illness among today’s teenagers.
The foundation’s mission is: “to be a positive and motivational resource for teens, young adults, and their families in the global fight against teen suicide, depression, and the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
Trautwein is not only a motivational speaker, but also a former pitcher for the Red Sox, published author, successful businessman, loving husband and father. When his son, Will Trautwein was 15 years old, he took his own life with his own hands.
His son Will, who stood 6-foot-1, strong, positive, with a bright future in his father’s eyes, took his own life in the early morning of Oct. 15, 2010.
The discovery of this the next morning left Trautwein in disbelief and in shock. How could someone like his son Will could suffer from depression, nevertheless taking his own life? He was shocked how someone like Will: the lead in a band, captain of his traveling lacrosse team, popular in school, and often swarmed with friends, could take his own life.
He had no idea how much Will was struggling with depression and how much it had taken a toll on him. The death of his son left a lasting impact on his perception of mental illness and just how much it affects teenagers today with the usage of technology and social media.
Trautwein took the traumatic situation of his son’s death and brought positivity to it by educating other parents and adults about the reality of mental illness and the heartbreak of losing a child.
He said, “To be able to turn something tragic into something positive was such a big goal for me, I’m doing something Will would’ve wanted me to do.” By giving these motivational speeches, Trautwein destigmatizes mental health and promotes a culture that allows conversations about mental illness and depression.     
His presentation spoke to the students who go through the struggles of mental illness, and to the parents of those children who grew up in a different  generation. His presentation opened up opportunities for conversations about mental illness between parents and their kids. Trauatwein believes that he also takes away from the overall message of the presentations,
“I take away the positivity of the reaction from the kids themselves and the affirmation that they do need to hear from the adults in their lives that they have it hard, cause it is. They appreciate when someone recognizes that there is an adult that can see through their eyes and how they feel”.
Trautwein’s story is heartbreaking for parents and students all across the country, his story is not only remarkable and moving, but one that leaves an impact on the way we view mental illness as a society.
His vulnerability with the audience connected students and created numerous discussions about mental illness. From Trautwein’s humor to his self-progression story, he delivered an informative and moving presentation that stuck with the audience; regardless of the demographic.
He urged those gathered to share this message: If you’re a teen and you’re struggling with mental illness, please know that there will always be someone there for you. If you or someone you know is in need of help, please don’t hesitate to give them the resources they need and offer your support. If you ever feel as if you need to talk to someone or are in serious harm, call for help. You are not alone!

Suicide Prevention: 1-800-784-2433; National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273 TALK (8255); Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741