September is Suicide Prevention Month. Alumna Ashley Schreyer is using her own grief to spread awareness and education about suicide and end the stigma surrounding mental illness.
His name was Matthew. She called him Matt. “When we started dating, he wanted to make it special, so he asked me out on February 29, 2016, a leap year. He wanted it to be a date that was unique, something to call ours.”
Ashley Schreyer was a shy and quiet elementary education student at Penn State Altoona when she started dating Matt Geishauser. They met through a mutual friend and did everything together. They went camping, hiking, and exploring. They watched movies and hung out. Schreyer says they shared a connection she had never built with another person and that he taught her more about life than anyone else ever had.
She was blindsided when Geishauser took his own life in July 2017. “He was the most supportive person ever. He was my rock and my everything, but I had no idea what he was going through. It's still a shock to this day.”
Schreyer says Geishauser introduced her to so many new things and taught her how to stand up for herself, how to be adventurous, and to keep going forward no matter what. “I learned a lot about that on a hiking trip we took once. We hiked through woods and up a mountain in this crazy humidity. I have an awful fear of snakes and, boy, I'd never seen so many snakes in all my life as we saw that day! But I pushed through and made it to the top of the mountain. Matt told me there was no going back, to just move forward. And that's something I’ve had to do since he passed away.”
After Geishauser’s death, some of Schreyer’s professors recommended she take a year off of school to begin healing, but remembering his words, she felt she needed to continue her academics. “I was going to graduate on time. It was my plan, it was our plan. He wanted me to become the teacher I wanted to be, and he always encouraged me when I struggled in school. I felt like I needed to prove to him and myself that I could do it despite the pain I was in.”