HELENA — Grace Lawlor is your average Helena High School graduate. Lawlor will head to Concordia College in Minnesota to play soccer and continue her studies this fall. However, during her sophomore year, Lawlor struggled with anxiety and depression, to a point where she felt her only escape from her struggles was to die by suicide.
“I didn’t really think I was going to make it to my high school graduation,” Lawlor recounted. “I had an attempt, and I think that’s my lowest point, and that’s when my parents made the decision for me.”
Following Lawlor’s suicide attempt, her parents brought her to Shodair Children’s Hospital, where she could get better in a safe environment surrounded by professionals who were able to provide her with care. That was something Lawlor’s mother, Sarah, calls a blessing in disguise.
“The health crisis completely caught us off guard, I think it caught Grace off guard,” Sarah said. “So having the opportunity to know that she was in a safe place, that we could all just step back and take a breath and evaluate where we were at, and know that she was surrounded by a really supportive staff, to know that she was in an environment with other kids that were having similar struggles, so that she knew she wasn’t alone, it really was a blessing in disguise.”
Grace Lawlor describes her time at Shodair as a cleanse, a time to reflect on her life and the relationships she made prior to her attempt.
“Shodair kind of cleansed me. You get to Shodair and you don’t have any technology, you’re not around the same people, you don’t leave campus. It kind of gave me time to reflect on myself and my relationships,” she said.
Now in a position to give back to an organization she partially credits with saving her life, Lawlor is embracing her role as both an athlete and an ambassador for the hospital.
“I have a special connection with this, given that it is the Shodair Soccer Classic, and I know when I was there it was really important to get exercise, and I think it’s important to relay that to the current patients,” Lawlor said. “I know sometimes you don’t want to get out of bed, but it is really good for you to get exercise, and this is important for me because I’m closing out my time with Montana high school soccer and I’m also helping the current patients at Shodair to let them know that it is going to be OK.”
Lawlor now feels comfortable taking the next step in her life, moving away to study education and psychology all while playing college soccer.
But what excites her the most about the next four years?
“That there is a next step and that I’m going out of my comfort zone and I’m becoming a whole new person. I’m not in high school anymore, I’m not going to be around my same high school friends,” Lawlor said. “I’m really stepping out and I’m growing up. I’m becoming my own person. I’m leaving everything I know in Helena, and that’s really scary, but ultimately it’s going to be one of the best things for me because I’m experiencing something totally new.”
Lawlor and the rest of the Shodair Soccer Classic all-stars compete Saturday afternoon beginning at 1 p.m. at Nelson Stadium in Helena.
The national suicide prevention hotline, open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.