Charity week supports suicide prevention


Photo courtesy of creative commons.

Lauren Karmo, Editor-In-Chief

Jan. 12 marked the beginning of charity week at both Rochester High School and Stoney Creek High School, and the charity both chose to support this year is the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). With both schools supporting the same charity, the goal was to not only raise money, but to also spread awareness about this topic to students throughout the community.

“[SCHS] came to us and told us that they’re really passionate about this topic and would really appreciate if [AFSP] could be the charity, and we were on board with doing it,” Stugo President senior Paige Gonterman said. “We know that’s something that affects people of all ages, and we’re helping something that could affect people that our own age too, people that are in our school. It’s a really serious topic that matters to a lot of people, and we thought that more people would be willing to help something that they’re passionate about.”

In addition to the numerous charity events that are occuring, Stugo discussed the signs of suicide and resources to get help at the pep assembly on Jan. 19.

“It’s an important issue because it doesn’t only affect a specific group of people, anyone could fall into a depression and have suicidal thoughts, so it’s important that we spread awareness about this topic,” said senior Karlyn Kelley. “We’re having a speaker come and talk about suicide and signs of it and I think it’s important that it’s discussed with high schoolers because that’s a very emotional time.”

AFSP offers services to assist those who may be suffering with thoughts of suicide, and they work to spread awareness as well as eliminate the stigma that surrounds getting help for mental health issues.

We provide free training, education, and awareness in suicide prevention,” said AFSP representative Steve Windom. “We also offer free loss and healing resources to those who have experienced a loss to suicide.”

More teenagers are affected with depression and thoughts of suicide than people may realize, and Stugo, along with AFSP, wants to increase the awareness of this topic. More than anything else, the goal of this year’s charity week was an increased focus on helping students in Rochester Community Schools.

“This year, charity week is more than getting caught up in how much we can raise,” Gonterman said. “This year it’s like yes, we want to raise as much as we can for the charity but also how can we help kids in our school with facts and support. While it is about raising money, it’s also about those in the school that could be affected by it.”

The effects of a poor mental health state is one of the leading causes of death for teenagers, according to the Jason Foundation. More than any other age group, teens experience heightened stress, anxiety and depression. Although up to four in five teens who are victims of suicide show clear warning signs of suicidal thoughts before it happens, most do not ask for or receive help until it is too late.

“I think with education and awareness, high school students are beginning to see the importance of suicide awareness,” health teacher Mrs. Amy Oppat said. “It is not uncommon to feel sad, but when a person feels sad for long periods of time or has suicidal thoughts, it is important for us to get them the necessary help. My advice is to talk to a trusted adult. There are many avenues for managing stress, depression, anxiety and many other mental disorders.”

Recent events in pop culture have drawn attention to this issue. Released in April 2017, Logic’s song “1-800-273-8255,” titled after the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, got entertainment news sources such as Billboard and MTV to give this topic more awareness. Logic dubbed this song the “most important song I’ve ever wrote.” On its release day, over 4,573 calls were made to the hotline and 5,041 calls were made the night of Logic’s performance at the VMAs. The hotline confirmed that their average number of calls has significantly increased since the song’s release.

“The song was meant to raise awareness for mental health and suicide prevention,” senior Audrey Weber said. “I think it accomplished that goal because a lot of people learned what that phone number was for. Logic’s music has become very popular, the 1-800 song has been on the top 50 for a while now. I think it was a really unique way of getting the word out.”

While Logic’s song remains as a positive message in the world of pop culture, earlier in the month, Logan Paul released a video on his YouTube channel that received backlash because many viewers felt it depicted the issue in an unhealthy way. The YouTuber had vlogged his visit to Japan’s Aokigahara, commonly known as “suicide forest,” and chose to include shots of a suicide victim in his video. The video has since been taken down, but its effect on his very large and young audience had already occured.

“Logan Paul’s disrespectful and ignorant video brought a lot of attention to him and how what he did was just so wrong,” Weber said. “I think it also brought attention to what the suicide forest is and what it means. Most people were seriously disturbed by the video which showed unity of people [over this issue].”

Despite the recent controversy surrounding this issue, the attention that has been brought to it has offered an opportunity to educate and promote awareness. Although it has been proven time and time again that many people suffer with mental illnesses, many do not recognize the signs that differentiate a bad mood from a serious problem.

“Awareness is important so we can recognize when a person is struggling with thoughts of suicide,” Mrs. Oppat said. “If we educate people on the signs and symptoms, we can get them (or ourselves) the help needed.”

This year’s  charity has shown to be of greater personal value to most students than ones of years past. Between seeing the effects of this issue through the eyes of the media as well as throughout the local  community, many RHS students are passionate about this topic and hope to help through the week’s efforts.

“This year’s charity really directly affects our students,” Stugo Treasurer senior Lauren Wegener said. “You’re not sure who is affected by depression, who’s affected by suicidal thoughts to an extent, and so having something that directly impacts the students of our school… I think that’s sort of why we stuck with this one.”