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Back from the Edge

Recent alumnus discusses his struggles and triumphs

Sitting alone in his dorm room, Darren Smith’s thoughts began to take over, his internal voice directing him to a frightening place.   

“It was the first and only time I contemplated whether or not my life was worth living. I wondered, should I take it?” he said.   

Suddenly he heard his phone; it was a text from a friend.   

“In that moment, if I didn’t get that text from her...” Smith trailed off.   

The Bridgewater State University alumnus arrived on campus in the fall of 2019 and, like many incoming freshmen, admits his first semester was difficult.   

“It was hard. I didn’t know what I was doing, how to register for classes. I even took biology my first semester, I barely got through it, but somehow, I did it,” Smith said.   

To make matters worse, the roommate he was paired with ended up being a failed match, and he needed to switch rooms.  

“I didn’t think things could get any worse, then COVID hit,” Smith said. “I went home to Bourne to finish out the semester.”  

When school started up again in the fall of 2020, the pandemic forced all of BSU’s classes online. Students were invited to return and live on campus, but with restrictions. It was far from the traditional experience college students were accustomed to.   

Smith opted to live on campus and was assigned to a single room in Pope Hall.   

“There were only three other people on the floor. I lived at the end of the hallway and didn’t really interact with others. It wasn’t the school’s fault, but that was my reality,” he said.   

Taking classes online, limited social interaction—the isolation took a toll.   

“That first COVID semester, it was hard. I know I wasn’t alone, we all lived in these boxes. It left you often alone with your thoughts,” Smith said. “There was this weird sense of loneliness. I think we crave interaction whether we want to admit it or not.”  

Smith started to experience panic attacks and depression, leading him to the day where he sat alone in his dorm room, contemplating suicide. If not for his friend reaching’s something he thinks about often.   

“At the time, I didn’t know how to use my resources. I had a hard time reaching out to people,” he said.   

Eventually he did seek out help and made use of the BSU Wellness Center’s free counseling services.   

“It helped. I never would have believed talking to someone would help, I’ve always believed that your problems are your own, but sometimes talking to somebody does help,” he said.   

Smith got more involved as a BSU Orientation Leader and tour guide. He also worked as an advisor in the Academic Achievement Center.   

As for the friend who texted him that day, their relationship blossomed into a romance with the couple still dating today.   

After graduating this spring with a degree in communication studies, Smith applied and was accepted into Fitchburg State University’s master’s program in applied communications. He will start this fall.   

He is quick to point out that despite his success and ability to manage his mental health crisis, that doesn’t mean he will ever “beat it.”   

“Depression never really disappears, it still and always will be a part of me,” he said. “But by telling my story, I hope others can relate and realize they are not alone. I think we all have moments where we deal with depression.”  

For students who might be struggling at BSU, he encourages them to reach out and find the right outlet or resource that works best for them.   

“I hope students understand that the college does have resources and I think BSU does a good job promoting these programs through the Wellness Center,” Smith said. “Every student deals with things differently, what might have worked for me, might not be an option for someone else. I never believed I could (graduate college) but you find the outside resources you need and keep pushing through.”  

The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is a hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a trained listener, call 988. Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.

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