(This story is part of an ongoing photo project about the Youth Mental Health Crisis. Please follow along at https://youthmentalhealthcrisis.visura.co.)
Out of the Darkness
One School, Two Suicides
By Katie Linsky Shaw
After a parent at AC Reynolds High School in Asheville, NC, lost a family member to teen suicide, she approached the school’s Parent-Teacher-Student Association for help. The Reynolds school community had already faced its own tragedy last school year losing two students separately to suicide, just a few weeks apart. The PTSA quickly organized its first “Out of the Darkness Walk” through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The event was held on Oct. 18.
Christine Aiken, the PTSA’s Vice-President for Student Advocacy, organized the event.
“In my research, I was shocked to learn how many young children are struggling and even more, how many middle and high schoolers have suicidal thoughts,” Aiken said, adding that parents often don’t have the information they need to help their children.
The event at AC Reynolds was a great start to sharing that information. In addition to the actual walk around the high school track, the event included a talk by a local psychologist Dr. Rhonda Karg, and social worker Jill Williams. The women stressed that reaching out for help when a person is having suicidal thoughts does not mean automatic hospitalization, something they believe keeps teenagers from seeking help. They said a person in crisis can easily and anonymously reach out for help through the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by calling 988 or texting 741-741 if they’d prefer not to talk.
“As adults, parents, schools, etc., we have got to treat suicide as the vital threat that it is and do everything we can to save lives,” explained Aiken. She asked adults in attendance to raise their hands if they were willing to be a safe person a teenager in crisis can reach out to for help.
During the walk, students painted rocks and puzzle pieces to be used for a “Garden of Hope” the PTSA is installing at the school. Aiken said the garden will act as a safe space for students to use when they need a break. She said the year-round garden will be maintained by the PTSA with plans to add on to it.
“We're hoping this is our legacy,” said Aiken, “one of coming together to build something and inspire hope for the future.”
Aiken said they hope to make the suicide awareness walk an annual event.
For more information on "Out of the Darkness Walks," check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
If you are in crisis, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting 741-741.