Local teens hold Suicide Prevention Walk
By MALACHI MUNCY
On Saturday evening, more than 150 people gathered at South Park in Copperas Cove to participate in a candlelit walk to raise awareness about teen suicide.
Young Miss Five Hills, Hayleigh Walker partnered with the Copperas Cove High School DECA chapter to organize the walk.
Teen suicide prevention is the focus of both Walker’s platform of service and the DECA chapter’s public relations project.
“I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts and actions and depression,” said Walker. “I don’t want anyone to have to go through that alone. That’s why everyone’s presence here is so important. We’re here for each other.”
Attendees wrote names and messages of support on paper butterflies before tying them to one of two wire trees. By the end the event, the branches of both trees were full of remembrance for lives lost to suicide and support for those struggling with suicide.
The sun was setting as attendees set out on from the park pavilion.
DECA members read information about depression and suicide at nine stations along the .7-mile trail.
According to a placard at one of the stations, “Researchers found a substantial increase in suicides among teen girls and boys in the U.S. from 1975 to 2015, with the rate among girls hitting a record high. From 2007 to 2015 alone, suicide rates doubled among teen girls and by more than 30 percent among teen boys.”
According to another, “More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.”
After the walk, attendees gathered back at the pavilion. Dozens of people, mostly teens, took turns on the microphone to share stories of their personal struggles with depression, suicide and the aftermath of losing a loved one to suicide.
A group of five teens went up together to support each other as they shared the story of witnessing a friend’s suicide. They shared their stories, tears and hugs.
“A lot of kids will open up to others of their age, so having this outlet allows space for them to encourage each other to seek help,” said Charlotte Heinze, Copperas Cove High School DECA advisor.
There were also counselors available to talk with attendees individually at the event.
Last year, as a part of their public relations project, the DECA chapter held a seminar on suicide awareness for Copperas Cove seniors.
“After the talk someone came forward to the school counselors to seek help, “ said Sarah Stephens, DECA member. “That person is doing better now.”
The next event the DECA chapter will be a part for its suicide prevention public relation project is the ‘Out of the Darkness Greater Fort Hood Area Walk’ on Oct. 14 at Harker Heights Community Park
Walker is also working with staff at her school, Shoemaker High School, to create an afterschool peer support group for students affected by suicide.
“We haven’t worked out all the details but it is important for teens to have space to talk about these sorts of things.”
Sunday was world suicide prevention day and this week is national suicide prevention week. If you or someone you know is in crisis, the 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.