Credit to Alex Rowe

Many students are affected by depression. Others don’t always understand the influence of depression and other mental illnesses on teenagers, and how they affect students’ academics, relationships and growth.

Kirkwood Hosts Suicide Awareness Day

Published: December 18, 2017

Bridget Snider wants to end the stigma. Clutching a basket of yellow wristbands with the same message, this KHS senior helps other members of the Kirkwood Call, their school newspaper, get ready for the morning ahead. It’s an important one.

They set out whiteboards and Expo markers on tables near two entrances to their school, writing the prompt “I stand for…” on all of them. They wait.

Not everyone will stop. Some students will rush by, the cold October morning or the weight of their textbooks driving them inside.

But others will. When they do, they will finish the prompt, take a picture and leave with a bracelet. For Snider and other members of the Suicide Awareness Week Admin Board, getting their teachers and peers to open up about mental health and suicide, even in this little way, is a victory.    

“There are a lot of kids on Call who thought that the topic was important and that it needed to be talked about more,” Snider said. “A lot of the time, it’s forgotten in schools, and it’s not really something that they like to talk about because it’s such a heavy topic. We just kind of felt the need, that it needed to be a more open topic in conversation and wanted to get people more involved.”

The SAW Admin Board at KHS, run by students from their journalism program, hosts a full Suicide Awareness Week every spring, with activities ranging from a guest speaker to a food truck night with the goal of bringing awareness to mental health. This year, they decided to add a whiteboard day in the fall, on Oct. 24, to start the conversation early.

“It’s something that needs to be talked about year-round,” senior Camille Baker, another SAW Admin Board member, said. “It’s not something that we can necessarily only have a week for, and we wish that we could always do something for it and we always try to, but it’s also something that we need to make sure we’re incorporating within the school year-round.”

Despite the cold weather, students took a few moments to fill out whiteboards on the day in October, including senior Dillon Thompson.

“It’s sort of a thing that everyone turns away from,” Thompson said. “I know a few people who are affected and, to be honest, not a lot of people like to talk about it. It’s kind of this ugly thing.”

With their fall whiteboard day behind them, SAW members will begin planning their week in the spring, continuing to get people talking about mental health and fighting the stigma. They hope to make everyone more comfortable with the topic so those affected can find help and understanding.

“I would just love to see stuff like this happening more within St. Louis, within the nation, within other schools,” Baker said. “I hope that just by doing little things like this it can kind of spark a bigger conversation, whether that be just within families, within our school community, wherever. Honestly, the more we can talk about this topic, the better it will be. It is really uncomfortable to talk about these things right now and that’s not how it should be.”

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