Disclaimer: This story contains mentions of suicide which may be triggering for some.
A high school senior’s emotional video in response to the loss of a fellow classmate to suicide, the third in their school district to take their life this year, has gone viral. This is not the first time Smith Alley has addressed the “plague” of mental illness and suicide. Nor will it be the last.
“It sucks to lose someone in my hometown, at my high school, because it’s just so close,” Smith tells his followers.
The teen from Bountiful, Utah has made it his purpose to fight the problem that hits so close to home, starting his own nonprofit, Live Life Bigger. With it he travels to speak about mental illness and suicide, encourages youth to live life beyond their screens, and provides resources for parents.
But it’s personal for another reason… Alley has been there himself.
“I draw my motivation to spread light from my many years spent in the dark,” he writes on the Live Life Bigger website. “In my early elementary years I was bullied for my size and my speech impediment. This led me to believe I wasn’t enough.”
Smith goes on to reveal these feelings of inadequacy, mixed with exposure to pornography and negative social media usage, opened the door to addiction and self-hatred. The shame led him to push family and friends away and created the perfect storm of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
“After creating a suicide plan, my parents found out about everything that was happening and it created a pivot point in my life,” he continues. “On this day, April 23, 2018, my mom grabbed my face and said, ‘Smith, I will fight for you but you have to fight for yourself first.’ So I did.”
His mom had instilled the will to fight. But it still wasn’t easy.
“Honestly, it’s been heartbreaking and really hard to have to work through,” Smith tells Love What Matters. “But it is also motivation for me to keep doing what I’m doing and making a difference. This is why I do what I do, this is why I run a nonprofit. I want to help people who are in a similar situation to me. I want to help parents who are concerned for their kid’s safety.”
In a post to his followers, Smith reiterated that his mother’s love was really the key for him.
“For so long I thought the reason I changed was because of fear. I was scared of what would happen if I didn’t… But the fear didn’t change my life, love did. My momma’s love. That’s what made me the warrior I am today.”
We all have people we love and care about deeply. We may already be aware they are struggling, or we may have no idea. But the number of people affected by mental illness continues to grow, and the likelihood someone in your circle is battling this invisible plague is increasingly high. Alley’s main message to anyone who will listen is to make suicide prevention a top priority.
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“This is the fight we have to fight. You have to start now and don’t wait for tragedy to strike… You have to decide today that this is the most important thing to you,” Smith pleas. “You have to decide that the people in your life matter enough to you to do the work that keeps them there, to show people they’re enough, that they’re loved and they’re worthy.”
“One of the best things we can do to address the increasing problem is talk about it, get involved in the community, in our homes and families,” Alley tells Love What Matters. “If we look up from our phones and pay attention to those struggling around us, we can make a difference. If we say hi to everybody in the hallway, reach out to those we can tell are lonely, or do little acts of service, we can help reduce the amount of unnecessary deaths and pain people are feeling.”
Read about other ways people are helping prevent suicide here:
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