AP NEWS

‘This is What Anna Would Want Me to Do’

May 14, 2019

Itea Aslanian felt the “black cloud” floating above three months ago as she grieved the suicide death of her 16-year-old daughter Anna.

The cloud stopped her from appearing at a suicide prevention fundraiser, during which they mentioned her daughter. Itea couldn’t picture herself sharing Anna’s story standing in front of students and parents.

But after months of tears and anguish, she said it’s time to spread her daughter’s tragic story in the community. Next week, she’ll speak for the first time in public about losing her daughter, who took her own life six months ago after getting bullied in Lowell.

“I’m feeling ready,” Itea said before her first Mother’s Day without Anna. “This is what Anna would want me to do.”

Itea will sit on a panel after the May 20 showing of a student’s anti-bullying film at Chunky’s Cinema Pub in Pelham, N.H. Proceeds from the night will benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

“It’s time to take those steps and spread the positive message that Anna would want me to spread,” Itea said. “I want to make sure I’m going to say everything in the way Anna would want to say it.”

Anna took her own life a few days after her 16th birthday party in October. The Lowell High School sophomore had been body shamed, Anna wrote in a letter she left in her room.

She was beaten down and had no self-esteem left, Anna wrote.

“Her words were so powerful about mental health,” Itea said. “It’s so important for people to feel like they can talk about these feelings. I feel like I’m there now to pick up where she left off.”

She added that she knows it will take the rest of her life to process what happened to her daughter.

In the wake of coverage of Anna’s death in the Herald and The Lowell Sun, a Pelham High School senior who made an anti-bullying film contacted Itea about speaking at the May 20 film screening and fundraiser. Meghan Montminy, 17, asked Itea to talk about the effects of bullying.

“I was so moved by her reaching out,” Itea said. “I’m beyond honored to be part of this.”

Montminy created the film “Silently Sorry” to bring awareness to the consequences of bullying. She said she has been bullied, and has witnessed bullying in school. Her brother has been severely bullied, she added.

“The issue hits close to home,” Montminy said. “It’s something that needs to come to an end.”

She added that she’s excited for Itea to join the panel and share her powerful story.

In addition to speaking publicly about Anna next week, Itea will participate in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk in Boston on June 22. She’s doing the 16-18 mile walk in Anna’s memory.

Itea is also talking about setting up a scholarship fund in Anna’s name, and organizing a 5K road race to raise money for suicide prevention. She would eventually like to start a program in schools.

“I’m ready for this,” Itea said. “I really am.”

The Samaritans of Merrimack Valley is a program of Family Services of the Merrimack Valley. They have volunteers who are trained to speak with those who are struggling. Their confidential crisis help line numbers are 978-327-6607 and 866-912-4673. A person in imminent risk should call 911.