Before school dismissed for the summer, Gallipolis City School and Gallia County Local School District students grades six through 12 gathered in their respective schools for a presentation by Mary Schreck with the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention campaign. Schreck’s appearance at the schools was organized by the Suicide Prevention Committee of the Gallia Citizens for Prevention and Recovery to facilitate discussions among students about suicide and depression awareness.
Gallia CPR member Selena Mitchell said the organization noticed more suicides happening in the area and wanted to bring in programs that teach students the signs and symptoms of depression and when someone may be at risk as a prevention effort.
“We want to give them the information that they can reach out for help,” said Mitchell. “That there’s nothing wrong with needing help. We want them to feel safe and okay with reaching out.”
River Valley Middle School Principal Ed Moore said the staff of RVMS has had some of its members and students affected by suicides in the area and felt it was important to bring in activities to raise awareness and empower students to be able to help their friends and family.
“We wanted to do some activities during the school year to just make sure the kids were aware someone cared,” said Moore. “That if they needed help, there are programs, there are hotlines, there are individuals that care and they’re there to help them.”
Schreck, who has been speaking for the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Campaign for over 17 years, told the students about her own son Chris’ suicide in 1996 when he was 22-years-old and the effect it had on not only the immediate family but on everyone around them.
While they aren’t sure what happened to Chris, his death spurred Schreck to get involved with the national suicide prevention organization in the hopes her message of hope and reaching out to others would reach young people who are at risk.
Schreck said statistics show suicide is the second leading cause of death of children and teenagers ages 10 to 20 years old and that one in five of middle school aged students think about suicide and one in ten attempt suicide.
She urged students to reach out to someone if they are struggling.
“All these people care about you and would love to help you if they knew you needed the help. But sometimes we forget how many people really care about us and who would love to help us,” said Schreck. “Suicide can be prevented. We can’t prevent every suicide, but if we know what to do and how to help, we can prevent a lot of suicide.”
After recounting the history of the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Campaign, Schreck also recounted personal stories from the time she has served as a representative for the organization.
“Talk to someone. Talk about what’s bothering you. It’s okay to ask for help,” she told the students.
Schreck said one of the biggest myths about suicide is that talking about it will cause people to attempt or complete suicide. In the past, it was also a taboo subject.
“So, people stopped talking about suicide,” said Schreck. “But we need to talk about it because it’s happening more in our society. You don’t want to think that they didn’t mean it and later wish you had said something. It’s better to be wrong and do something than to not do anything at all.”
About those who completed suicide, Schreck told the students they didn’t really want to die.
“What they wanted to do was end the pain. Things had been happening in their life that built up this horrible, terrible, awful, awful deep pain inside and they can’t bear the pain anymore,” said Schreck. “They can’t think about family or friends or asking for help. Most young people aren’t even thinking about what they’re doing is ending their life.”
She noted that statistics show 50 percent of those who attempt or complete suicide are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that girls attempt more, but boys complete more.
Oftentimes, Shreck told the students, people don’t believe they can help because they aren’t professionals, but just like those who learn CPR or First Aid to assist until a professional can be reached, people can do the same when people need other kinds of help.
“You can learn to be that link that can get them to the other links to get to the help that they need,” said Shreck, who told the students 75 percent of young people will turn to their peers for help before an adult.
Whether it is due to school-related stressors or home stressors, Shreck said depression affects people’s thinking and their emotions and it is important to talk about depression and what it means. She even shared her own experiences with depression and being able to recognize the signs and seek help before things got too bad.
On the subject of bullying, Shreck told the students, “Don’t let people treat you like that and don’t treat people like that, because you are all so important. We need to more and more nowadays really try to find those who are being treated like that, try to help them, try to prevent these things from happening.”
Some of the warning signs Shreck touched on were threats of suicide, talking and writing about death a lot, dramatic mood changes, giving away prized possessions, anger, participating in dangerous activities, cutting or even self-medicating.
She also warned students to watch for someone who has been struggling but seems happy all of the sudden.
“A lot of the time, they’ve been hurting and wanting to get rid of that pain and once they decided how they want to get rid of that pain, then they’re happy because they think “they” won’t be in this pain much longer,” said Schreck.
She talked about the difference between hearing and listening and recounted a story of a custodian who caught onto a student at risk when that student thanked him for being nice to him but used the past tense. The custodian picked up on it and after talking with student found out he had planned suicide. She encouraged students if it was safe to do so, to ask and talk with those they thought were hurting in some way and encourage them to seek help.
Materials were passed out to all of the students to give them a resource they can take with them and share with others.
“If you tell a couple of people and they tell more and more, think about how many people we could educate and we could help,” said Schreck.
If you or someone you know needs help, call (800) 273-TALK(8255) or text “Help” to 741741.
For more information about the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program visit their website.
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