Family tragedy inspires Astoria teen to donate to Unity Center
Abby Stemper a bright-eyed, earnest high school student from Astoria, has witnessed hopelessness, pain and suffering in her young life.
Three years ago, Abby lost her cousin Tyler to suicide. Abby herself went through a bout of depression and grief following the loss of Tyler, her beloved friend and family member.
“Tyler’s passing really affected my life, in both positive and negative ways. I started to become depressed and made some bad choices that lead me to spend time in the ICU at my local hospital,” Abby says. “After Tyler’s passing I knew that I wanted to donate stuffed polar bears to an adolescent psychiatric hospital in his memory.”
Abby’s aunt wanted Abby to have the stuffed polar bear collection that brought Tyler comfort during his darkest days. After receiving her cousin’s collection of polar bears Abby made it her mission to ensure kids being treated for depression and mental illness had the comfort of a cuddly polar bear as they are working through their own darkest days. “I wanted to give the same polar bears that my cousin had to kids at a local in-patient psychiatric unit so they never felt alone and so they know that someone out there understands their pain and wants them to get better," she says.
During her freshman year of high school Abby put plans in place to raise over $1,100 – more than enough to buy 22 polar bears. Abby also had enough left over to donate ten DVD players and fidget spinners to kids and adolescents at Unity Center for Behavioral Health who found hope and consolation from Abby’s generous donation.
“After spending years thinking about my senior project I realized how truly excited I was to have the chance to have a positive influence in the lives of people that are really struggling,” Abby says. “I quickly learned that this is something that I want to pursue as a career because it's something I am very passionate about. I am planning to attend college in the fall of 2018 getting my masters in Psychology so I can become certified as an Equine Assisted Therapist."
The Unity Center for Behavioral Health cares for teens between the ages of nine to 17 across Oregon and S.W. Washington. The average length of stay for youth requiring mental health treatment is between seven to 10 days with many Unity’s young patients suffering from depression and suicide ideation.
Teen suicide is a growing health concern. It is the second-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, surpassed only by unintentional accidents, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
For more information about spotting depression in teens and locating resources for suicidal teens, please go to Lines for Life or 800-273-8255.
To learn more about our care and mission to create a pathway to hope, community and recovery please see Unity Center for Behavioral Health.
For media inquiries contact: Kristin Whitney
Image caption: Abby pictured holding one of the polar bears she donated to Unity Center has started her senior year at Astoria High School.