GRESHAM, Ore. – Young students, some not even teenagers yet, stood before their peers Thursday at Gordon Russell Middle School and talked about bullying and suicide.
Their words were raw, emotional and real, and it was a conversation that has really come to light since KATU News first reported on a recent cluster of suicides in the Battle Ground School District in the state of Washington.
Since then, several local districts have stepped up to make this issue a priority.
Bullying and suicide are issues that are undeniably connected, but it is rare kids look their peers in the face and have an open and honest conversation about being hurt by others’ words and actions.
"They sat and wondered: am I really not wanted? Should I really die?" said one eighth-grader. "They felt so alone and confused. Then the story took a heart-wrenching turn: they tried suicide," she said.
Students at the middle school called their assembly "Stand for Respect."
Some even shared real, private details like that eighth grader who eventually confessed the story wasn't about any teen.
"These words are painful to read and equally difficult to hear, the voice spoken aloud," she said. "Why? You probably guessed it: This is my story."
Kids in the audience listened and some cried, along with parents who were there, especially when the older brother of 14-year-old Eden Wormer, a Cascade Middle School student in Vancouver, spoke. Eden committed suicide last March. She was a cutter and her brother regrets the last thing he said to her.
"After we got her counseling and everything like that, we thought things were good," he said. "I was joking with her and I said I wished my front lawn was like her so I'd never have to cut it again."
The point of all these heart-breaking messages: "You want to be kind to those around you," Eden's brother said. "Because guess what, one day, you're gonna need help. Everybody does."
In that way all of the students can move on with their bright futures, and "we can all choose to create a different ending to the story," the eighth-grader said. "And it begins right here and right now."
The principal of the school said he could've brought in professionals to talk to the kids about bullying and suicide, but he wanted the students to do the talking instead.
Resources for youth:
- Mind Your Mind: A non-profit dedicated to providing reliable information for youth dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicide. The site contains youth-specific resources, tips for coping with mental illness issues, and the personal stories of youth who have experienced and overcome these issues.
- Reach Out: A website for youth, by youth, with information on how to help yourself or a friend who is thinking about suicide. Allows youth to share their stories about overcoming depression and suicide in an online, supportive environment.
- We Can Help Us: A collection of videos made by real teens who have gone through a variety of different challenges and overcome them. Also allows other youth to share their own stories in a supportive environment.
- The Trevor Project: A website dedicated to helping LGBTQ youth dealing with depression, anxiety, and suicide. Also operates a 24-hour crisis hotline, 1-866-4-U-TREVOR.
- The Jed Foundation: A resource for college students containing information about depression and anxiety among college students, and information about how to get help at school.
- Metanoia.org: An online resource that offers information about how to find and contact a therapist, and how to make sure your therapist is right for you. Also offers resources for connecting to a therapist online for 'e-therapy'.
- Teen forum on suicide being held in Battle Ground
Resources for parents:
- Association for Behavioral Cognitive Therapies: Offers information for parents about childhood mental health issues and advice on finding the best treatment for you and your family.
- Lok-It-Up: A campaign to promote the safe storage of firearms. Offers advice on how to safely store firearms and prevent teen firearm suicide.
- ASK Campaign: A website dedicated to gun safety. Information about firearm deaths and tips for preventing your children from gun violence.
Resources for Educators:
- Evergreen Education Association: The Evergreen Education Association is holding a "Diversity and Social Justice Conference" in February with a session that will focus on suicide prevention.