Trumbull mom fights teen depression
Not all role models want people to be like them. Sometimes they do everything they can to prevent it.
Trumbull resident Gillian Anderson, whose daughter Abby took her own life in 2014 after struggling with clinical depression, has made it her mission to help ensure that other parents never have to experience what she did.
Anderson recently joined the staff of the Jordan Porco Foundation, a Hartford-based 501(c)(3) non-profit dedicated to mental health, suicide prevention and building hope among high school and college-aged youths.
“Lots of students struggle with depression but don’t seek help because they are terrified of the stigma,” Anderson said. “They try to keep up the appearance of being normal, but they’re not. They have to struggle so hard just to maintain the appearance that it exhausts them. It takes a lot for them to face the world every day.”
After Abby’s death, Gillian said, she thought about forming a foundation herself. But then she heard about the Jordan Porco Foundation and everything fell into place.
“I was working in development for public radio, and a friend mentioned that there was this new foundation that had recently raised over $1 million for teen suicide prevention at a gala dinner,” Anderson said. “I went up there for a friendly visit over the summer and the CEO, the CFO and I spent hours together.”
The three shared a bond of having lost a child to teen suicide, Anderson said.
“We bonded over our grief,” she said.
So when the foundation needed a new development director, Anderson was the perfect choice.
“It was a natural fit that I have a fund-raising background and that’s what they happened to be looking for,” she said. “It’s so cliché but it feels like it was meant to be.”
As development director, Anderson is currently working on a fund-raising effort in partnership with the new Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, about a lonely teen whose social status improves after the suicide of a classmate. The show is receiving positive reviews and audience reaction and is currently playing to sellout crowds at the 984-seat Music Box Theatre.
Given the show’s popularity, buying a ticket is next to impossible. But Anderson might give you one. All donations to the Jordan Porco Foundation made between now and Dec. 31 will be entered into a drawing to win a pair of tickets, which are currently selling for about $130 apiece.
“It’s kind of a shocking twist that one of the hottest Broadway plays is about getting kids to talk and get rid of the stigma, because that’s what we’re about,” Anderson said. “It blew me away that this is so topical and so needed.”
Anderson said she hoped that those who see the play come away with a new understanding of teen depression, and that the estimated 10% of teens who suffer from it will seek the help they need.
“I really do believe that they are helping to save lives,” she said. “If my daughter had seen something like this, it might have made a difference.”