The community-based organization was founded in 2006 in honor of Elyssa, a bright, gifted and outgoing Chicagoland girl who bravely battled post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Elyssa’s Mission® provides hands-on support to area public and private schools in order to educate students, staff, parents and guardians on how to recognize and assist those teens most at-risk. We have helped educate over one million students, staff and parents since inception.
Elyssa was a bright, beautiful, extremely outgoing girl.
Depression, Anxiety and Suicidal Ideation
Written by Elyssa’s mother
Elyssa was a bright, beautiful, extremely outgoing girl. What made her happy was a house full of family and friends. She was an avid reader and liked to journal and write poetry. She saw things as either right or wrong. She had a tremendous amount of empathy towards kids who were treated unfairly. She was impulsive and lived life to the fullest. She was a risk taker but cared what the result was and how people perceived her. She was very sensitive. She pretended to be tough on the inside but wasn’t. She was funny and made funny faces to get you to laugh. She tried to help others with their problems. She loved her friends; they were her world.
When Elyssa was twelve years old, she was sexually assaulted by a teenage boy. Following the assault, Elyssa was hospitalized and diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I was informed by her team that Elyssa had a predisposition to depression. I was told by her doctors that the sexual assault and the bullying by her peers pushed her over the edge.
i am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)”
– ee cummings
As another day goes by, I reflect on all the change that occurs every day. From the simplest of things, to the life altering experiences–each make me the person I am today.
When Elyssa left us, I knew my life would never be the same, and my outlook on how I went about living it would change forever. I was innocent and naive, without a care in the world. I lived each day never thinking about grief, heartache, or regret, but most of all, never thinking about suicide as a reality.
It was completely unexpected. My heart felt like it was broken. I never even got to say goodbye. I never got to tell her how I felt, or how much our friendship meant to me, or the different ways she impacted my life. And worst of all, I never got to tell her I loved her one last time.
To me, Elyssa had her whole life set. She was smart, funny, gorgeous, caring, generous, honest, and real. She knew how to make people smile; she knew how to get people thinking about things that most people never considered. She knew a lot about life at such a young age, and she went through a lot of things that most kids don’t, and shouldn’t, have to deal with. Her thoughts of suicide were shared with a few close, trusted friends; but at such a young age, most of us didn’t know what to do with the information we learned about her wishes and thoughts of death. If I could re-do a period of time in my life so far, I would go back to 8th grade: social studies class, right before lunchtime, to a specific conversation I had with Elyssa about her funeral service and whether or not I would attend it if she killed herself. I wish I would have taken her in my arms, hugged her tight, and never let her go. I wish I could go back and tell her I loved her. I wish I had left the classroom right at that moment and walked to the social worker. I should have taken her to her mom and dad and told them what I knew. I wish I would have done something more.
If I were to give someone advice, it would be that if you know or suspect someone to be having suicidal thoughts or intentions–GO, Right Now, and tell someone you trust: an adult, a counselor, 911. Don’t hold it inside yourself because it hurts you, and it’s hurting the person you care about. Don’t let another minute go by; just tell someone. Hold that person in your arms, tell them you love them and you care about them, and tell them they are going to get help; chances are, deep down, help is what they want.
Elyssa is a light in my life, and she will always be with me. I think of her now and smile because of all she has taught me; not only when she was physically here with me, but even now after she has left. I want to help Elyssa by living out part of her dream to help people. I want to educate people about suicide, suicide prevention and sexual abuse so that no one else has to go through what Elyssa’s family and friends are still coping with today.
I believe that Elyssa is in heaven, and I know that she is in a happier place now…but I wish she were still here now, making me laugh, because that’s what she was best at.
I miss you, Lys. And I’ll love you for always and ever.
I am now seventeen years old and graduating high school in the spring. I was Elyssa’s good family friend and neighbor. I was only thirteen when Elyssa died. When Elyssa got her driver’s license, we would take trips to get food or go shopping. I remember one time quite clearly, we were going to get her homecoming dress. It was black with a pink ribbon that tied at the waist. Most girls would have looked at her and envied her beauty as she looked gorgeous in anything. I never had met a girl with such style, beauty and intelligence. Elyssa had the ability to light up a room or make your day with her smile. She was someone special to me. She was that older sister I never had. She would even give me her “hand me downs” like an older sister.
Even though Elyssa is not here with us she still helps me every day. She has led me to people I thought I would never find or meet. I feel her with me everywhere I go. If there is anything I have learned from Elyssa, it is to be respectful and kind to one another. I never got to tell Elyssa the place she had in my heart. Most of all I never got to say “I LOVE YOU!” Writing this letter is my way of telling her how much I did love her and always will.
by Elyssa Meyers
Speak. Chocolate milk sits on the table, my fear grows. 13 year old girl’s tears stream down her cheeks. Hate. A passion for happiness. Time passes, sickness stirs, the fuzziest sweater is no longer soft. Yet the flowers bloom and life goes on. Color or no color the windows open with truth. Power. Freedom floats above my head out of grasp, frustrated I give up. Problems block the tiled floor road and my blue jeans rip. Barbie dolls turn ugly and anger rises. Strength turns cold my friend, your help – useless. Your kindness appreciated but stubbornly I stand confused. Miserable as I am, I still love. Alone. Speak. Break the silence. Answer the phone now, before I’m gone. Dance. Take your dirty socks off and walk barefoot. People. Curiosity puzzles me, mind your own business. Trapped within a peanut butter jar, flashbacks strike. Help. The sky’s black, and now I sleep in the clouds. Eyes closed I see you. As I sharpen my nails, evil haunts. I hide behind a mushroom, and pray. Wrote a letter to a John. Abuse. When doves cry, I need you. Please taste my blood. Stormy weather is the signal. Challenge. I Speak the truth. Do you know why? Permanently ruined yet you roam free. The beginning of the summer and the sun has yet to shine. Sucked into the drain, forever drowning. Save me…The equation will never add up until you are behind bars. The bench in the park is gone and the stairs are never ending. Count your breaths. Guilt. Destruction. Intimidation. The young boy mows the lawn. Yet to touch the ladder. Shame is the rain that falls in the sidewalk cracks. Eagles nest. Memories are the building blocks surrounding the tower. Youth. The culture is in shock. Stripped away. Wall paper torn to the floor. It’s gone. All gone. Who I am will never surface. VICTIM. The birthday card is stained like the coffee you just spilled. The note that meant more than religion. Betrayal. I’ll never be alive again. Innocence lost inevitably. Drowned in pink. The olden days are a crack. What you brought me is finally here. The tease has ended, all must end with it. What I cannot say you read perfectly. Alienation. Control. Useless to the queen bee yet fortunate for this day. Quick. Failure. Her favorite shoes are birkinstocks. Save yourself. Lose yourself. I will survive. The unknown haunts.
by Elyssa and Ken Meyers
(Elyssa’s words appear in purple; Ken’s in black)
And your wish?
Make it loud.
Look deep into the blue.
Windows to the soul.
Fresh, luscious apples
Just picked from the tree.
Their smell makes my stomach rumble.
I pick the ripest one, ruddy and smooth,
And all of a sudden
It’s missing a bite.
So sweet, so innocent.
Blue turns to darkness.
Forced. Unwanted. Stop!
No! Scream. Cry.
I can barely breathe.
My neck is dripping in tears.
I hate who I am.
I have no desire.
I have nothing.
I’ll never be alive again.
I stand confused.
Miserable as I am, I still love.
Drowned in pink.
The unknown haunts.
Four letter word.
The cheetah sinks its teeth deeper, deeper.
Devours the insides.
Blue turns even darker.
It is as though the word is alive and wants to eat me.
It attacks me.
Like he attacked me.
It freezes my brain and makes me unaware of what is going on.
My blood gurgles and the pressure shoots up.
The cat wins.
Blue filled with fear.
Chocolate milk sits on the table.
My fear grows.
Tears stream down her cheeks.
The fuzziest sweater is no longer soft.
Yet the flowers bloom and life goes on.
Color or no color, the windows open with truth.
Hear no evil.
See no evil.
Pants in flames.
Rip out the blue and make it disappear.
I had done nothing wrong.
The FACT that it did happen.
There is no greater fear than being helpless in an unsafe position.
So so alone.
Me against the world, so it feels.
Falling down the well.
I can’t catch myself.
Where is everyone?
I can’t help but think:
Does he suffer as much as I do? I did?…DO.
I speak the truth.
Do you know why?
Permanently ruined yet you roam free.
Sucked into the drain, forever drowning.
The equation will never add up until you are behind bars.
Ten tons pressing on my shoulders.
The sting of the whip against my back.
Doctor, doctor, where is the anesthesia?
Exorcize it out of me, please, please.
We close our eyes at night in hope
For a dream that will soothe our wounds.
The darkness will become permanent.
Crank the music.
My life flashes before me.
Somebody save me.
End my tears.
Make this feeling go away.
Take me to a place.
Far, far away.
Lift my spirit.
Steal my heart.
The wax melts into the cake.
Stop the burning.
Blue. Such a deep blue.
Twinkle, twinkle, my little star.
I love you.
Thank you for laughing with me.
For brightening my life.
Remember the inner me.
Seventeen candles today.
And your wish?
Make it loud.
Throughout my life so far, I conclude one thing is certain:
Whatever we are, we are always real.
November 20, 2004
by Elyssa Meyers
Throughout my life so far, I conclude that one thing is certain: whatever we are, we are always real. I believe that at all times we feel, whether it’s with our hands or our hearts; we can embrace sadness, happiness, fright or madness. We are always in control of how we choose to deal with our emotions. How we deal with the past and future is irrelevant to how we deal with now, The Precious Present is the precious present, as Spencer Johnson teaches us.
Our journey is to find ourselves. Most of us spend too much time in our lives searching for our identity. “What an absurd amount of energy I have been wasting all my life trying to figure out how things ‘really are,’ when all the time they weren’t.” I agree with Hugh Prather, we can’t strive for life, we have to be it. We can’t plan out our life on paper. We have to live it by our hearts. “Only the stillness of my heart is consistent, and it does not dictate how to behave but merely how to see.” I take that and think, well, then the question is not what to do, but where within me I am looking. We must look with our mind’s eye and unveil the truth.
The launch of my journey was when I decided I wanted to know the reason for the way I was feeling. That was my beginning. I have learned that to actually look for your path is a waste of time; it doesn’t exist. It’s whether we take the time to dig into ourselves to find our core that we truly understand ourselves. It is created with three relationships: surrounding people, the holy God and yourself.
I believe we create our own path. Faith in God will help guide us, but it is I who lifts my foot and takes another step. We take what we want from life and make it what we choose. Our choices determine our life. One of the hardest concepts is that once we do something, we can’t take it back. No matter what we say or do afterward, what’s done is done. Everything is so permanent. With that knowledge my outlook on life changes. It all comes down to one simple thing: I don’t want to mess up.
When I grow up, I want to help other people. That is my gift to the world. The way I see it, if I start understanding myself now, I will be able to understand others later. I don’t just want to listen to what people say to me, but feel what they mean. I have the power to make people smile, and I want to use that as much as I can. I know I am only one person, but when I grow up if I only make one person happy, it will make a difference. That is the world’s gift to me. That is real.