To see Serena McDonald today, you’d never guess that she was a survivor of a suicide attempt at the age of 17 in 2013. A victim of bullying in middle school and years of emotional and physical traumas, Serena’s feelings of depression, isolation and an emerging eating disorder left her so desperate that ending her life seemed to be her only option. The attempt fell short, of course, which lead her to Sound Mental Health.
Today, three years later, Serena is a different person. She’s still a little vulnerable, as most young people are. But she’s also a fighter and quite an impassioned youth suicide prevention advocate.
“I always tell people I am not a survivor,” she says. “I am a Warrior. I know how it feels to be at such a low point in your life that you feel suicide is the only answer. Now that I’ve been through therapy and recovery, I can show the kids that suicide is never the answer.”
After two years of therapeutic support, mental health counseling and Wraparound services through Sound Mental Health’s Child & Family Services program, Serena felt empowered. She wanted to reach out to youth that felt very much the way she did years ago. In 2015, she launched I Care Project, a Facebook community to connect with youth who are experiencing depression and struggling with self-harm and suicidality. To date, the community boasts nearly 500 members who, like her, identify as “Warriors.”
In addition to reaching youth through I Care Project, Serena takes her message public at community forums and in the media.
As if that wasn’t enough, Serena has also been a Youth Peer Partner at Sound Mental Health since November of 2015, where she is a valuable resource to kids who are going through depression, feelings of hopeless and isolation.
“I enjoy showing the kids that it really does get better and that Wraparound services really work,” she says proudly. “I enjoy being the proof to these kids that the process really does help them get better, because I’ve been through it.”
Beyond her work in the community, Serena finds that exploring other passions in her life gives it direction and meaning. She models for local photographers as a way to build her growing self-acceptance and someday, aspires to become a make-up artist.