The Chariot

In Need of a Material Memory

Community lacks conversation and concern of students’ mental health and a substantial memorial for Danny Ashtiani who passed away last May.

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In Need of a Material Memory

Sarah Funk, Co-Feature Editor

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Walking through the hallways, alumnus Kyle Villamil (‘16) has countless memories of his high school experience: rollerblading through the halls on the night of Snowcoming, fooling around in art class, painted his chest with his buddies for a well thought out homecoming proposal, getting his first job and cheering at football games. All of these moments were shared with his best friend Danial Ashtiani, who died of suicide last May. Though the memories of Danny will forever stay in the minds of those close to him, there is nothing at this school as proof he is gone or ever was here.
In newspaper and yearbook, you get your own brick on the wall to decorate and personalize. When you make all-state for a sport, you get your photo in the commons. When you choose a college, you sign your name on your school’s pennant. All things to remember you and your accomplishments- whether they be your hobbies, your athletics or your grades. Something to leave your mark.
Since Danny left, there is nothing to show for his presence or his absence. After a short-lived gathering where the walls were chalked with kind words, it was washed off the next day. Little attention was paid, save for an announcement the following day and a moment of silence.
There is clearly no set course of action for such a tragic situation, but it is important for a community to be open and band together. This is where Troy High could do more. Danny’s older sister, hasti Raveau, who is a clinical physcology student pursuing her doctorate, reached out to the school and offered to discuss the importance of mental illness. Her overtures have so far led nowhere.
Many students have taken the lack of action to commemorate Danny’s death by the school as Troy High’s lack of priority in student’s mental health, a growing issue with 20 percent of teens between the ages of 13 and 18 having a mental disorder. By 14, 50 percent of these illnesses begin, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“[The administration] likes to believe that school is only based solely on academics, but the amount of stress and pressure that circulates through our halls has a correlation with [mental illness],” senior Julia Alaimo, a close friend of Danny’s, said. “Of course, it is easier to forget, but that does not make it the right thing to do. Mental illness will forever be on the back burner in the eyes of Troy High.”
In an effort to commemorate Danny earlier this year, Julia and I printed out multiple photos of Danny, brought a memory book and sticky notes to decorate his locker. Within weeks, we were asked to move the photos and notes into his locker because the memorial made some students and teachers feel uncomfortable and guilty.
However, having physical proof somewhere in the school feels necessary to move on while at the same time taking precautions to not let something like this happen again. Mental illness isn’t something to be taken lightly. Being asked to hide away his memories in the locker were the opposite of what we wanted. Being asked to move everything physical behind shut doors felt like just that-closing off the conversation.
After bargaining to leave a single photo up with pens and a sticky note pad, I watched kids knock the pens off and walk away, freshmen passed by with puzzled faces and the majority of students gave looks of ignorance toward the seemingly insignificant locker. It seemed as though an event that had changed my life and the lives of so many close to me was slowly being forgotten by everyone else, everyone who knew Danny solely as one of 2,000 other students.
“Out of sight, out of mind” never felt more true. Only to solidify those feelings, the photo on Danny’s locker was taken down because unkind words were written on it. Though the vandalism revealed the lack of sensitivity among some students, the expirience of a community coming together to support a loss is what was ultimately missing.
Memorials are important to remember and honor someone’s life as opposed to his death, not to dwell. No one wants to constantly think about their losses. Danny was a part of our community and he took his own life at a young age. He deserves a memorial as a remembrance, an apology and something or somewhere for people to feel they can be open about their problems. Something to focus on the good to remember him by. One idea for a memorial is a tree planted in Danny’s honor in the friendship garden here at Troy High. This small gesture could be seen as a place to go when struggling and would begin to open up a discussion on mental illness and materialize Danny’s memory.


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