Have you ever had one of those bad dreams — you crashed your car or your house burned down — that you wake up from, relieved to find out it didn’t happen in real life?

I’ve been waking up everyday for the last two weeks hoping that it was all just a bad dream, but Eugene Swen is still gone.

Eugene, a sophomore, passed away on March 31.

I’d be lying if I said that I was friends with Eugene. I never even spoke to him. But when I heard that he had died, I felt like I had lost someone close.

Eugene was a football player. In fact, he was an excellent player, and I’ve been watching him play for the last two seasons while covering high school football.

Eugene, or Geno as he was known to his friends and teammates, could do it all on the field. As a freshman he made 53 tackles as a starting defensive back and was the team’s punter, earning second team all county honors. This fall he intercepted six passes, broke up nine more and was the team’s dynamic punt returner. Longtime Lightning coach Pete Hughes called him the best player he’s ever had. I, like many others, was excited to see how far he could go in the sport. Division I football seemed like a real possibility.

It sounds kind of silly, but when Eugene followed me on Twitter I was excited. Since I don’t have many NFL players following me, getting follows from top high school athletes is the next best thing. And when Eugene would retweet or comment on one of my tweets, it was always a special thrill.

Being good at football isn’t what makes Eugene’s death any more or less of a tragedy than the death of any other young person. I didn’t know him personally, but everything that I’ve heard from his friends and classmates online in the wake of his passing tells me that he was one of the friendliest, most well liked and outwardly happy students at his high school.

That is why it is so shocking and dismaying to hear about his death.

But Eugene’s story underscores the fact that it’s not always the loners or the outcasts that have inner struggles and battles with depression. The pretty girls and star athletes can hurt inside too.

It breaks my heart to know that on March 31, Eugene — who had such a bright future ahead of him and was liked by so many — found himself in such a dark place.

No matter how bad things get, no matter how lonely the world seems, hang on. Talk to somebody. Get help. Because if you go away, many people — people that you didn’t even know about — are going to be hurt by your absence; people that could help you, and people that you could help. The decision to take your own life is one that you can never change. If you keep fighting, things can get better. There will be new opportunities, new friends, new memories.

Focus on the things and people in your life that make you smile and bring you happiness. Don’t dwell on the things that stress you out or bring you down. Keep fighting, keep laughing, keep trying.

Do it for Eugene.

"  

Just like the man who wrote this article, I barely knew Eugene. He went to my middle school, and we talked a few times, and I never saw him again once we went to different high schools. When I learned he committed suicide, so many people came together and mourned for him. I mourned for him. I’d only talked to him a few times, but his death and depression affected me in so many ways.

People WOULD care if you committed suicide. Even if they didn’t even know you, people would mourn, and feel bad, because they’d feel that in some way, they could have helped you, whether they’d only seen your face once or if they were the ones who made fun of you everyday.

Do what the article says. If you’re hurting, talk to someone. Anyone. If you talk to someone, and they ignore you, then talk to someone else. And keep talking to people until someone helps you out. Talk to ANYONE. I’m 99% sure that if Eugene had came up to me after not seeing me for two years and said, “I need to talk to you about something,” I would have talked to him. If you ever need someone to talk to, just message me. Anon or not.

Once I learned that he had died, I promised myself that I would never see suicide as an option anymore. I’m living for and because of Eugene, because I know that people would miss me and people do care for me.

It is true. The pretty girls and star athletes can hurt inside, too. You’re never alone.