Waimate High School's head girl shared a heartfelt speech during her school prizegiving where she opened up about coming out as gay, and described how she battled depression in Year 11.
Two weeks ago, 18 -year-old Monique Gooch stood in front of friends, family and strangers and detailed how she discovered she was gay in Year 10 but was afraid to come out to her friends.
"After finally feeling like I found my place in high school it was terrifying to make the realisation that I was gay," she told educators and schoolmates in her speech.
"And let me tell you this is even hard for me to say now, years later, in front of strangers because I don't know what everyone's political beliefs are, but back then the fear was so much worse.
"I didn't want to ruin the relationships I'd created and remember thinking to myself that I would never tell anyone. But it was something that was always on my mind and I could tell it was making me distant.
"That's when I knew I had to come out, but to my relief my friends were great about it.
"I was also worried about coming out in a small town school but I was pleasantly surprised because never once did I feel like I was singled out by kids or teachers."
Gooch said when she was able to finally be herself it made her feel on top of the world, which is why she didn't understand why she fell into depression.
"That's why returning to school the next year and falling into depression will never make sense to me," she said.
"I know what you're thinking ... here we go again. 'Another gay depressed kid, what's new?'
"And I have to say this is extremely awkward to talk about. Both of these things a viewed as very negatively in society and I try to separate myself from these stereotypes because although these things are a part of me, I hate being reduced down to these factors.
"I just want to mention it today because it was such a huge part of my life and I think that not including it would make this whole speech feel dishonest.
"I don't know what caused my depression, I just realised the moment I didn't feel like myself anymore and I knew that something was wrong.
"School for me in Year 11 became very difficult. I actually fell asleep in classes and lunchtime on a regular basis because I didn't have the motivation or energy to stay awake.
I also started to push away my friends.
"That whole year kind of seems like a gap in a timeline of my life. Looking back, I can see that my motivation to recover was the fact that I missed out on so much. I was sick of missing out. I started working really hard and I finished that year with an Excellence Endorsement."
Gooch told the Oamaru Mail she was overwhelmed when she received the Dux award at prize-giving.
"The whole night, everyone was emotional about leaving, but I think that getting Dux was probably what made me most emotional – it meant so much to me," she said.
"I think I've had really good support from my family and my teachers."
WHERE TO GET HELP:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
OR IF YOU NEED TO TALK TO SOMEONE ELSE:
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org online chat.
• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757
• SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.