Christopher was our youngest child and only son. He was the best son any parent could have ever asked for or have been blessed with.
Christopher came into this world on the early morning of January 19, 1994 in the middle of a snow storm. He was a delight from the moment he eagerly came into this world, that he didn’t even cry at birth. He brightened up our lives especially from that first smile as a newborn. He was a very content baby who loved to be cuddled.
Although Chris was a quiet child, he loved to watch his cartoons and he loved to laugh. He was such a loving child who adored his sister that was five years older. He also grew up with a lot of cousins, some of whom even became his best friends as they all got older. Because he is one of the youngest members of the family, he was adored and loved by everyone. He was very affectionate and good natured, always happy and ready to help anyone who asked, or didn’t ask. Everyone knew him to be a happy young man who always had a smile on his face and loved to put smiles on everyone’s faces.
He started pre-school at Saint Peter the Apostle School and stayed until he graduated from 8th grade. Saint Peter’s school, now All Saints Academy, was a small, Catholic school, where he continued to grow, learn and prosper. He joined Cub scouts and little league baseball so he could spend more time with friends. Because this was a small school, he felt that the school, with all of the teachers and classmates, were part of his extended family.
Chris then went on to Morris Catholic High School. Though he never played organized soccer previously, he tried out and joined the soccer team his freshman year because Christopher had a love for the game. His favorite team was Bayern Munich. He experienced bullying by some older players. The school administration addressed the situation, but he decided to leave the soccer team to join other clubs, like fencing, where he would prosper. He had a lot of great friends, whom he shared a lot of wonderful memories with, even after graduation. They would all get together when they returned from college for the holidays or breaks.
Christopher decided to attend Rider University and major in Accounting. He formed some great new friendships and seemed to be flourishing. However, towards the end of his freshman year, we received a call from the school saying that Christopher was brought to the Emergency Room because he tried to take his own life. We rushed to the hospital looking for answers, trying to find out what happened, why it happened, to discover that this was his second attempt at suicide. Unbeknownst to us, Chris’ family, the high school bullying experience traumatized him at the young age of fourteen, he tried to take his own life four years earlier. We had no clue how deeply that experience affected him. Chris said he had a flashback of the bullying incident from his freshman year of high school. He felt the same shame and worthlessness that he felt back then. We were heartbroken. How did I, his own mother miss the signs? If we had only known the depth of his pain the first time, he could have started treatment and therapy sooner and the healing process could have started much earlier. But unfortunately, we missed that opportunity. Physical wounds heal over time, but emotional wounds affect the mind permanently causing depression.
He went through months of treatment while attending college. The Dean of Students at Rider worked with his schedule to accommodate his treatment needs. For the next two years he completed treatment while enjoying college life, in the company of close friends while staying on the Dean’s List. And because he was excelling in school, surrounded by his friends, we thought everything was well with him. But depression truly wears a mask.
It was around his 21st birthday that he started not feeling like himself. He went back to visiting his therapist and he was improving, so we thought. But tragically for us, on April 25, 2015 Christopher lost his battle with depression.
I re-live this tragedy by telling you Christopher’s story because we believe that similar to other diseases, early detection of depression with vigorous therapy and medication could have saved him. No parent should ever have to bury their 21 year old child. It’s just not a normal or regular event of life. Through our grief, we formed the Christopher R. Arayata Foundation. Our mission is to spread education and awareness to families and educators about the warning signs of depression and suicidal ideation of teenagers and young adults.
When someone is in the depths of severe depression, the last thing that person may want is to reach out for help. Suicide does not typically have a sudden onset. There are stressors that contribute to a young adult’s anxiety and unhappiness that triggers depression and suicidal thoughts. We firmly believe that education is the key to prevention of depression. That is why it is very important for family, friends, colleagues and educators to spot the problem and guide them to get the help and resources they need. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to prevention of depression that leads to suicide. It is our hope to eradicate the stigma that comes with depression and other mental health issues so that no child or adult will feel intimidated and be afraid to seek the help they need.