I was 15 when I tried to kill myself. When I thought that the only way out, was for me to just disappear. When you’re that age, secondary school can feel like a lifetime.  I was bullied all throughout school. Some days were bearable, but most of the time, it wasn’t.

One lunchtime, I noticed a strange symbol going around school. There were three letters – ADC – that were scribbled on the hands of my classmates. I had no idea what those letters meant, but I soon started to see them everywhere. I later found out that those three letters stood for Anti Danielle Crew. But it wasn’t just a symbol, it was an abbreviation for a website. The site was full of hundreds of comments, pictures and drawings…all about me. Even though the site was shut down, those words stayed with me, long afterwards. Some of them still do.

At the time, I was told that they were “just words”, with no meaning, or power. But things soon escalated. I was followed home from school and attacked. It was planned. The thing I remember the most is how frightened I was, and how I just wished that someone, anyone, would jump in. Try to stop it…but no one did.

Part of me gave up after that and I didn’t want to carry on. When I was in hospital, I found out that I had been very close to dying. A family friend gave me a ceramic box (to keep my hope in), and reminded me that even in the darkest times, there is still light.

I wrote my first young adult novel And the Stars Were Burning Brightly to explore what happens when you feel like all you want to do is shut down. Suicide is the leading cause of death among under 35s, resulting in over 1,800 deaths a year. I wrote this book for the many young people who feel like they can’t speak out, or speak up.

There is still significant stigma surrounding mental health and I hope the one thing you take away from this story is how much you matter. How much you are meant to be here. So if you are struggling, then please, please, seek help. Talk to someone, open up and start conversations – there is no shame in admitting that you’re hurting. Especially with regards to suicide and bullying.

Please remember to always be kind, but most importantly, know that you deserve to be here. It will get better, and it is never your fault, no matter how different you are. Like Al, [the protagonist in And the Stars Were Burning Brightly] you were born to live. You were born to shine. But, most of all, you were born to burn bright.

 

And the Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando is published by Simon & Schuster

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