ASHTON — September was National Suicide Prevention Month and this year the students and staff at Hannan Junior/Senior High School focused on the difficult, yet necessary topic of suicide prevention.
Sumer Hughes, Hannan’s student council president, shared for the duration of the month, the student council prepared awareness and prevention activities. Daily, announcements were made of suicide prevention facts. An informational table was set up by Hughes and her vice president Katie Sturgeon during junior and senior high lunches. There, students signed forms pledging to seek help for themselves or someone they notice is struggling. Students were given National Suicide Awareness magnets and ribbons as a reminder of their pledge.
Hughes shared she and Stugeon came up with the idea. She commented they began looking back at different projects the student council had hosted in the past.
She said, “We started as soon as we got back to school mid-August. We were elected officers (president and vice president) after we planned the awareness activities. We planned everything in a very limited amount of time. As soon as we came up with the idea, we took it to our principal, Dr. (Karen) Oldham, and asked what she thought. She agreed that it is a tough, but a necessary topic that should be talked about more often. Our adviser, Jackie Fox, was welcoming of the idea due to a suicide impacting her community.”
During the month, photos were taken at a booth with “IWontBeSilent” signs, a national hashtag and organization, said Hughes. Every teacher at Hannan was given a “Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools” book, providing details on taking action, preventing, and recognizing a suicidal student.
“It is very, very sad that this is an uncommon topic when it impacts our youth so greatly,” said Hughes, “The stresses of high school are very underestimated. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people ages 10-24. Every school should participate in activities like this. Hopefully, Hannan has set the bar for other schools and our own student council chapter for years to come.”
Hughes shared Mark Mason, a representative from Prevent Suicide West Virginia, visited Hannan and the students were given the opportunity to speak to Mason during their free time. The student body was provided with pamphlets, bracelets, pens, and stickers labeled with crisis numbers and information.
“The students welcomed the activities and freely participated. No one turned down a ribbon, a pledge, or sticker. Students even made social media posts thanking the school for hosting the event, agreeing it should be brought to attention more,” said Hughes.
She shared on the final day of the prevention activities, student council members wrote positive messages on Prevent Suicide West Virginia sticky notes provided during Mason’s visit. These messages were left on every student’s locker.
Hughes commented Hannan’s student council would like to challenge everyone to store the National Suicide Prevention Text-line (714-714) into their phone in case someone or someone’s loved one is having suicidal thoughts, they can not only text, but call (1-800-272-8255) the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Both lines are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Erin Perkins contributed to this article.