Editor’s note: This is the final part of a multi-part series on depression, suicide and mental health in youth and how families can address these issues openly and proactively with children. Originally intended for four parts, community response forced an unanticipated extension.

I never really learned how to swim.

If I kick my feet and paddle my arms, I sort of squirm through the water. I have to keep moving to stay afloat.

Without a floatation device, I sink if I try relaxing, remaining still or pausing to take in my surroundings.

It’s amazing — and a little absurd — how accurately this floundering translates into a metaphor for my emotional life.

Instead of inflated water wings and foam pool noodles, I stay afloat in life with cognitive behavioral therapy and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.

That means I go to counseling and take antidepressants. ...

The Commonwealth’s series on teen mental health, suicide and depression, “Bruises on the Heart,” was sparked after I spoke over the phone to John Halligan, an international advocate for the prevention of bullying and teen suicide, just before he arrived in Ripon to speak at our high school. ...

This series has convinced me there are hundreds of people right here in our little community that only need you to stretch out your hand, and they’ll gladly grab it and hang on.

Talk doesn’t solve everything, but anything can be solved when people are open, honest, compassionate and vulnerable.

We’re not weak because we flounder and need a hand to hold; we’re strong because we cross the water anyway, hand in hand.

So come on in, the water’s fine.

Read the full column in the March 30, 2017 edition of the Ripon Commonwealth Press.