The Windham community is mourning the unexpected death of a young man who made a difference in people’s lives.

Jared Malier, a 2011 graduate of Windham High School and a standout athlete who competed on the school’s wrestling team, took his own life on Thursday. He was 23.

Malier’s family and friends expressed shock and deep sadness this week as they struggled to understand why he died by suicide when he had so much to live for.

He was the son of Laura and Jeff Malier of Windham and a big brother to Jesse Malier. He had many loyal friends and a dog, Tyson, who loved him unconditionally, his family said.

His mother sobbed Tuesday sharing stories of her son’s painful struggle with anxiety, depression and mental illness.

“We are heartbroken,” she said. “We tried so many times to get him the help and support he needed.”

It was a long struggle for Malier, a bright-eyed, happy-go lucky kid who embraced the outdoors and loved to fish and hunt with his family. Underneath it all, sadness consumed him.

His mother recalled the day he brought home a picture he colored at school.

“I told him what a great job he did, but he would point out that he colored outside the lines,” she said. “He would say it wasn’t good enough.”

Malier graduated from Windham High School in 2011. His mother said he was a natural athlete and fierce competitor who supported fellow members of the wrestling team. His brother also wrestled.

“Jared was so proud of Jesse,” his mother said.

“We always encouraged him and praised him,” said his father. “In his mind, we were the only ones that loved him. But that wasn’t true. He always had friends around.”

Malier had an army of friends to turn to. He was also very close to his younger brother. The two enjoyed hunting, fishing, riding dirt bikes and playing toss with a baseball and football.

“They were very close,” his father said of his sons. “Right to the end, they were together all the time. Jesse looked up to his older brother. That’s the hard part. They were best friends.”

Most recently, Malier worked at Moody’s Collision Center in Portland, where he did auto body repairs. His mother said he had pride in his work.

In the days and weeks before his death, Malier slipped into a dark depression. A recent breakup sent him into a downward spiral. He agreed to see a counselor and had three sessions, but needed more intensive care.

“He left the house Thursday night and said he didn’t want to live through the pain anymore or put us or his brother through the pain,” his mother said, crying.

Since Thursday, hundreds of people have turned to Facebook to express their grief and sadness and share stories of Malier.

His mother said the outpouring of support they have received from the community is overwhelming.

On Monday, Malier’s family and eight of his closest friends gathered at a funeral home to say goodbye to him. They spent nearly two hours with Malier’s body, crying and talking to him.

“It was heartbreaking,” his mother said. “His friends have had a hard time, but they wanted to be there. It was nice to have all that support from the people who truly loved him.”

In April, Malier’s ashes will be scattered in Jackman, a place where he felt the most peace in life.

A celebration of his life will be held from 4-7 p.m. Wednesday at Blais and Hay Funeral Home on Church Street in Westbrook.

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