Jennifer Higgins and her late son, Joshua Wilson

Feeling down or having a bad day at school, at home, or at work can make anyone’s day a little less pleasant.  Whether it results from performing poorly on a test, missing the game-winning shot, arguing with a sibling, quarreling with a friend, or getting a customer’s order wrong at work, moments of defeat and short-term failure can leave a lasting impact.  For most people, the bad day is simply a bump in the road, quickly forgotten as new, positive experiences replace the negative ones.

In some situations, though, a person’s negative emotions can overwhelm the positive ones.  Whether due to chemical factors in the brain or through one’s general outlook and disposition, some people have an easier time than others bouncing back from defeat.  Having a support network can help you get through the tough times.  Whether it’s a friend from school, a parent, a school staff member, or someone else, taking the time to talk about your emotions can make a world of difference.

In the worst cases, a young person becomes depressed by the negative circumstances that he or she experiences, and the depression motivates the person to engage in self-harm.  Such cases extend beyond boundaries of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or geography.  In 2013, Geneseo resident Joshua Wilson, age 12, died by suicide.  Joshua had experienced a few challenges as a young person, including bullying at school and the divorce of his parents.  He saw a counselor for these issues, though, and seemed to be a well-adjusted young person who was adapting well to middle school.

Joshua’s mom, Jennifer Higgins, has worked with MWAH! since 2015 to raise awareness about mental health challenges among young people.  She appeared at multiple on-location performances at schools across Illinois and Iowa during recent years to share Joshua’s story and to encourage students to reach out and obtain the help they need in order to survive and thrive.  As she notes in her testimonial, “We’re not meant to go through life alone…and there’s a lot of adults out there who want to help you.”

Her message to young people serves as a poignant reminder about the need to reach out and look out for the well-being our friends and neighbors who might be experiencing difficulties, even if they themselves do not take the initiative to seek help.  If you see a peer who seems to have lost interest in activities that once were enjoyable, who seems withdrawn, or even someone who has talked about dying by suicide, raising your concern with a trusted adult just might save a life.

MWAH! invites you to listen to Ms. Higgins’ heartfelt reflection during MWAH!’s performance at Central High School in DeWitt, Iowa in 2015. The video is available here.