NEWARK – Students spent Friday night spreading a message of love and awareness instead of spending the night out.
The fifth Share the Love event was held at Newark High School, sponsored by Mental Health America of Licking County’s Suicide Prevention Program.
Justina Wade, suicide prevention coordinator, said the event is meant as a way for students to raise awareness among their peers through social media.
“This event isn’t really a fundraiser, it’s more of an awareness event,” MHALC Executive Director Penny Sitler said. “It’s important that young people know there is help out there.”
Throughout the night, speakers shared their experiences with suicide and how it had impacted not only their lives, but lives of those around them.
Danielle Wood described how her reluctance to reach out about her problems lead to an attempt to take her own life.
“I suffered from depression when I was in school,” she said. “I was a regular kid, but I always felt a little different. Even when I had friends, I felt like an outcast.”
Wood began to harm herself, which she said worked at first, but eventually did not help anymore.
“I didn’t really know much about mental illness at the time,” she said. “I never asked for help, and any time some offered, I kind of just blew them off because I afraid and ashamed that I needed any.”
Sitler said that’s why this event was so important, to help remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide.
“That’s part of MHA’s mission, to eliminate stigma,” she said. “Kids should know they’re allowed to say ‘I need help’ instead of just being hopeless.”
North Ridge High School Senior Aili Barbee said this was her second Share the Love event.
“It was important to me because my school has a big problem with self harm and suicide, and it’s really an underspoken problem,” she said.
Barbee said that there have been a few people close to her and her family that have been affected by mental illness and depression, so it’s good to make a difference.
Lakewood High School senior Christian Rowe said he has attended Share the Love for three years straight and it’s a little personal for him.
“I was bullied into leaving my school district for a whole year,” he said
The bullying was enough for him to require two separate mental hospital stays because Rowe was having suicidal thoughts and feeling hostile towards his family.
“When I heard they were having this, I just had to come,” he said.
Sitler said no one should take thoughts of suicide lightly.
“If you hear someone talking about it, tell them you listen, that you care, that you’re there for them,” she said. “This event is to help young adults know what to do in case they hear someone having these thoughts. It was a chance for them to hear stories and make a difference.”
Found in The Newark Advocate March 18, 2016