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Murray Journal

After battling depression, Miss Murray seeks to give others HOPE

May 07, 2018 04:04PM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Miss Murray Jessica Christenson has been sharing stories of hope at Murray schools. (Photo Courtesy Jessica Christenson)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

There were many dark nights for Jessica Christenson in eighth grade, and as her depression worsened she began to self-harm. The future Miss Murray ultimately decided that life was no longer worth living. “But the thing was, I didn't want my life to be over, I just wanted my situation to get better,” said Christenson. 

Christenson has been sharing her story at Murray area schools on dealing with depression and anxiety. She is hosting an event in Murray Park on May 26 at 9 a.m. to discuss her platform HOPE, an acronym for Hold On Pain Ends. “I believe this event will be a healing experience, a fun experience, a welcoming atmosphere for our community to come together, unite, and honor those struggling with a loss or struggling with depression themselves.”

Life was good for the teenager with a photogenic smile who had a happy home life, good grades and friends. However, she didn’t know why she felt blue and was expressing her pain by cutting her body. Her mom and friends started to suspect something was wrong when they noticed all the scars on her arm.

“I didn't tell anyone about my depression because I didn't want people to think that I was ‘crazy.’ I thought I was the only person in the world who was going through what I went through; little did I know that this illness ran deeply in my family and that I had many family and friends that were going through the same thing that I went through.”

Fortunately, she got help, and, with time, practice, and therapy, she was able to determine healthy coping strategies and what works best for her when depression happens. She knows that she is more prone to those feelings late at night. She also finds things that she can do to relieve that stress and improve her mood by being active—working out, going for walks and dancing.

“I also now know that when I feel that way, I need to express how I am feeling and not keep it in; speak my mind, tell someone I trust,” she said.

Murray School District has already had two suicides this past year. Christenson has implemented an SOS program that she is taking to the schools. This program will give students and teachers an opportunity to learn so that they can better prevent suicide. Christenson believes that as the students come together to learn more about mental health that they will look for students who they may be concerned about and know how to take action.

“There are only so many teachers and counselors that can look out for these students, but one of the most important and crucial things are for peers to look out for other peers. They see, hear, and are surrounded by it more, and so might know who needs help,” Christenson said.

She hopes to strike an upbeat tone with her event on May 26. She will host a HOPE walk in honor of the two students in the school district who took their own lives this past year. Booths of supporting organizations will provide information on depression and suicide prevention. The event is free, with a raffle from which all proceeds will be given to suicide prevention non-profit organizations. Christenson will also have motivational speakers, light snacks, a wall of HOPE on which people will write down things that give them hope, and flags to honor lives lost.

Looking back at her experience, Christenson reflected, “If I could give advice to my younger self I would say ‘Don't create unrealistic expectations, don't compare yourself to others, and it’s okay to not be okay, but seek help and talk to someone.’ 

“We live in a world where social media imposes a huge threat on how we view ourselves. If only our youth could realize their full potential and love themselves for who they are, not for who they are not.”