Sitting down against the wall with her legs covered in a tremendous amount of blood, 15-year-old Kenidra Woods was ready to end her life. Her attempted suicide was prevented by her twin sister walking in the room and seeing her in this position. The events that would take place after this would drive her to seeking help for herself and saving the lives of other young adults through social media platforms and her blog site, the CHEETAH Movement.
Growing up in St. Louis, Missouri with four siblings and a twin sister was the perfect life for Woods until, she was sexually abused by both her stepfather and family friend at the age of seven.
“I felt ashamed, disgusted, guilty, embarrassed, most of all, I felt betrayed because those were the two men that not only I trusted but my mom and family as well. My mom didn’t trust just anyone. So, I kept silent because the thought of it destroying my family weighed on me,” said Woods.
The sexual abuse Woods experienced, went on for about two years. It wasn’t until age 12 that she began experimenting with unhealthy ways of coping with her feelings of loneliness, numbness and wanting to feel human again. Woods had resorted to punching herself, busting her lip, whipping herself with belts, sticking tacks in her skin, banging her head on objects. Eventually, these acts led to her attempted suicide.
“I found myself gradually starting to get in a deep dark place,” she said. “I started to self-harm by actually cutting with a razor and picking up anything sharp that I could get to no matter where I was.”
As a teenage blogger and self-harm activist, Woods is wearing her “battle wounds” proudly and using her story to save lives and raise awareness about teenage suicide through her self-harm and suicide prevention through the CHEETAH Movement.
Woods would not have been able to get to a point where she can help others without the work of God, her mother, counselors and therapist.
“They’ve instilled strength, hope, courage, and value into me daily. If it wasn’t for the people who gave up on me and left me, I wouldn’t have discovered myself and my light,” said Woods.
These seven letters stand for, Confidence, Harmony, Enlightenment, Encouragement, Tranquility, Awareness, and Hope. Woods’ missions is to educate, inspire, save and change lives and raise awareness about stigmas surrounding mental health.
Woods started the blog site in March of 2016 to tell others about her journey and to discuss topics of forgiveness, self-love, the importance of speaking out. She made an appearance in Tucson, Arizona reminding people that self-harm does not make them less human. The 15-year-old activist also provides platforms on her blogs for individuals to express themselves through different arts.
She was proven to be a true social media hero when she helped to save the life of one of her Instagram followers.
“She made threats about committing suicide and sent photos of really bad cuts,” said Woods. “I immediately called for help. Luckily her mom had walked into the bathroom quickly after she found out. I followed up on her a lot because she reminded me of myself. I began to get updates that she had been in treatment and was doing much better. I felt blessed and overwhelmed in a good way because I had not only saved a life but I saved many, I saved a family from a loss.”
Years from now, Woods can see the CHEETAH Movement expanding its message by helping to decrease the number of suicides and increase the awareness. Woods also has big plans for herself.
“I plan on going to college (I want to study theatre because it’s an amazing art to me), being an actress, a wife, and a mom. Hopefully by that time, the CHEETAH Movement will be well known and have helped thousands of individuals out there,” said Woods.
Woods believes no one will fully recover from attempted suicide or self-harm because it is so traumatic but, as time goes on, coping will get easier.
“The advice I would give young women going through the same thing would be to speak out and get help because self-harm and suicide is not the only way out. It is about reaching out for help but the matter of actually getting it,” said Woods.
Woods also has advice for anyone who has a friend or someone they know who is self-harming.
“I would tell them to make it clear to their friend they are not alone and that it’s okay to get help. I wanted to hear from a friend during such a hard time, this would’ve been a bit better for me knowing they were there and that they supported me,” said Woods.