WASHINGTON (WJLA) — Reader warning: This story contains topics that may be triggering to those battling depression or experiencing suicidal thoughts.
Zenia Kim saw a familiar name when she checked her email earlier this week.
Her professor at George Washington University, Lynn Matheny, sent her multiple messages over the past few weeks, asking about missing assignments. Some of her emails included questions about attendance.
Then, the tone changed.
"A week or two ago, she started emailing me like twice or multiple times a day asking me, ‘Any updates on your work?’" Kim told ABC7. "And then she would also add, ‘Please just get back to me, I don’t even care if it’s about your work or grades, I just care about your safety.’"
A suicide attempt at the end of October sent Kim to the hospital, forcing her to drop her classes and her housing. No longer a full-time student, the 18-year-old struggled to find a place to live on her server wages. With everything happening at once, emails were not on the top of her list.
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The professor also asked for her Venmo. The gesture stunned Kim, who wasn't expecting anything from the teacher - let alone financial help.
Kim said, "When she asked, I was just thankful and grateful for it. I didn’t expect anything much; I was expecting like $10 or just anything – I wasn’t expect anything. When I saw it, I was like, ‘Holy crap, what? That’s way too much money.’"
It was $1,000, to be exact.
The long explanation Kim wrote and what followed has blown up on Twitter, amassing thousands of retweets and hundreds of thousands of likes. After someone tried to use the response to scam people on Venmo, Kim put her real account handle in the comments of the original post.
People from all over the country have sent Kim money; one person, who said they lost their brother to suicide, sent $300.
These stories - whether they're entire life stories or just a quick note - mean the world to Kim.
"It was comforting because I realized, ‘Oh, I’m not so alone after all,'" she said.
It's a feeling prominent during the pandemic; Kim said her social life has suffered, along with the new D.C. indoor dining ban cutting down her hours and shifts. This is the first time she is living on her own, with no outside financial help.
The money from Matheny came at a time when Kim needed it the most.
"My professor really helped me out so I don’t have to worry about next month’s rent, and I can just keep working the pace I am and don’t have to worry that much.”
In light of her hospitalization and her professor's kindness, Kim is now opening up more about her mental health journey, which includes PTSD. She wants people to know that, despite the current state of the world, they are not alone in their struggles.
Kim said people need to utilize their resources and support systems when needed - and even reach out to her if they need an ear.
She may not know you, but like the thousands who have reached out to her, she cares.
"There is always someone who does care about you, even thought you might not know it," she said, adding, "I didn’t know my professor cared about me like that much ... but the fact that she noticed one of her students didn’t show up for classes or didn’t turn any work in and managed to reach out to me means a lot."
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24/7: 1-800-273-8255
For information on suicide prevention groups in D.C., click here.
If you are experiencing another type of crisis, the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.: 1-800-950-NAMI or text "NAMI" to 741741