Andrew Sepulveda shares his journey from El Rancho High School to MIT, while battling depression.
You made it! You pushed through your rigorous high school classes, completed all of your college and scholarship applications, and now, as class valedictorian, you’re making your way up to the graduation stage to deliver a speech to the class of 2018.
It’s a speech students and faculty will remember for years. It’s honest and it’s emotional. The crowd cheers you on in support and in that moment, everything is all right. In the Fall, you’ll attend MIT—rumor has it that in the history of El Rancho High School, you’re the third student to be accepted. Your future is looking bright, but all you can feel is darkness.
This was the sentiment of Andrew Sepulveda, a Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera and El Rancho High School alum, as he graduated from high school last June. And while the buzz of the summer embodied his classmates, who probably spent summer hours working a part-time job, hanging out with friends, and soaking in the last few weeks of Pico Rivera before they started college, Andrew spent his days in therapy trying to resolve the burden of his deep depression.
“It all started in late April,” recalls Andrew. “My boyfriend was gone, my sister was away, and I was working through issues with my family. The reality of not getting accepted into top schools such as Harvard and Yale began to sink in, and rejection letters for scholarships heightened my worry about my $72,000 cost of tuition. I felt very lonely, sad and disconnected. Everything added up at once and it was too much for me to handle.”
After graduation, Andrew hit an all time low with his depression. He quit his job to focus on going to therapy, but even with daily 2-hour sessions, his loneliness and depression still haunted him. After two suicide attempts, Andrew’s therapy sessions were bumped to 8-hour daily sessions and an increase in antidepressants.
“I would wake up, go to therapy, come home and sleep. My mom was concerned about my safety. I felt like I had no purpose. At one point, my family and I decided that I was too depressed to move 3,000 miles across the country. I was going to give up my spot at MIT.”
Andrew did experience ounces of hope during his depression. Simple things such as getting Boba drinks with friends and hanging out helped ease his mind. “When I was alone, it made me overthink. Being with friends or company was the best distraction.”
Through faith, therapy and talking more with his family, Andrew decided that he had to push through and make his way to MIT. In late August, he flew across the country and stepped onto MIT’s campus. The thoughts of what to expect of his roommates, classes and the overall environment made him anxious, but within the first week, Andrew felt alive and well.
“Through all of this I learned that I am resilient. I realize now that not getting accepted into Harvard and Yale was a good thing. Then I would have agonized over selecting which college to go to and I may not have chosen MIT. Now that I’m at MIT, it all makes sense. I was meant to be here. The courses are incredibly hard but there’s a shared sentiment that no one is going to succeed here by doing it alone. Even strangers walking by who see what you’re working on will stop by and offer help. It truly is the best place for me…my mind is constantly being challenged with academics and I never feel alone.”
For fellow DONS and students suffering from depression, Andrew recommends being honest. “Tell people about it. Let them know you’re feeling alone and need someone to sit with you or listen.” For parents, Andrew recommends that parents lend an open ear to listen but not give advice. “Sometimes we just want our parents to ask us how we’re doing so we can open up to them, but not have to hear their judgments or advice. We just need to know that they are listening.”
Andrew is not alone in his depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 million adolescents ages 12 to 17 have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Teen depression appears to be on the rise equally among urban, rural, and suburban populations. First-and-second generation Hispanics are significantly more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression than immigrants, according to research conducted by faculty members at New York University. Additionally, the prevalence of depression in Latino women is higher (46%) than Latino men (19.6%), according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Self-harm is often associated with depression. Never ignore comments or concerns about suicide. Always take action to get help for a friend or loved one. If you think you may hurt yourself or attempt suicide, there are many resources available to help teens and young adults, including:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or use its webchat on suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat
- The It Gets Better campaign and The Trevor Project, which provides a national, 24-hr, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth at 866-488-7386. The Trevor Project also provides an online chatand confidential text messaging—text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200.
“When you’re in a depressed state, you think you’ll never be happy again,” says Andrew. “Just know that you have a purpose. Get help and work through it because there’s something great waiting for you.”