On April 22nd, 2019, a close friend of mine from high school took his life. I was in the middle of a physics class learning about how particles function when my parents called me. They told me that Ben Getchell, Shining Mountain Waldorf School grad class of 2017, a friend who had fueled my love of the universe, had explained to me what seemed to be every scientific explanation in Interstellar, who made me think about life in a way no one else before had, who was enthusiastic enough to start a Space Club at our high school together, and who, without fail, was such a true friend, had ended his life.
I didn’t know how to react. I suppose the initial reaction was shock, as is to be expected. He had shared that he struggled with depression and social anxiety at times, but it never seemed like it inhibited our interactions, so I didn’t ask about it unless he brought it up. When I went to college, we didn’t talk much. I was busy and so was he. So when I heard the news last April, I felt so angry at myself for having not checked in with him. How could I have been so caught up in my own life to not have reached out? Could things have been different if I had?
Without people at college who knew Ben, it was difficult for me to talk about his death. I hardly told any of my college friends. I wish I would have in retrospect, but it felt like I needed to just be alone for a bit. I talked to a few mutual friends of his back home, my parents, and his mom, and that provided me the support I needed during that time. For a few days after his passing, I went to a practice room with a piano on campus and sat and thought and wrote. That helped me to process, to grieve, to create something from his memory. I've released the song on all streaming platforms, and you can go listen to it here. It’s called Particles, and I hope you can listen and remember Ben if you knew him or anyone you are wanting to remember who has taken their life. I hope it helps you to feel whatever you might need to feel. Listen to it as you walk or as you run. Listen to it as you drive or sit and think. I am forever honored to have been a part of Ben’s life, and I hope that his story can inspire us all to check in with each other more, to care, to listen, to be there for those around us, because we never know who might be needing our support. I hope you will join me in this project<3
-Emma Kieran Schaefer
Resources for you or anyone you know who is needing mental health support
Consider donating to either of two charities in memory of Ben and to help support suicide prevention
A song and reminder to check in with the people in our lives, because we never know who may be needing our support