NEW ULM - Just because it makes us uncomfortable doesn't mean an issue does not exist.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in Minnesota, according to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (save. org). Twenty-five percent of ninth-graders in the state have thought of killing themselves and/or have hurt themselves on purpose sometimes, according to the same source. At least five million youth suffer with depression each year.
Statistics are based on reported data. Because most suicidal thoughts remain unreported, it is difficult to determine exactly how many students may need a way to ask for help, experts say.
Staff photo by Kremena Spengler
Members of the New Ulm Youth Council are trying to raise awareness of suicide and depression issues and better prepare people to deal with them. Among the members are (from left) Sheryl Patricelli, Caitlyn Otto, Ben Rieke and Emma Vranich.
Members of the New Ulm Youth Council are taking these issues to heart.
Sponsored by Healthy Communities Healthy Youth, the students have planned a suicide prevention program at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, at the District Administrative Center Auditorium. They are urging everyone in the community to attend. The program will be followed by the Walk for Hope the following Saturday, at 10 a.m. in Allison Park in Sleepy Eye.
The students eagerly jumped on the issue, according to their advisor, Sheldon Rieke.
The youth have long wanted to do something and have campaigned on the issue for a year.
They have looked for ways to raise awareness of suicide and depression, by engaging teachers and classmates.
About a dozen of them are involved in organizing the above events. About 20 are wearing Yellow Ribbon T-shirts to school to raise awareness of the matter.
To encourage people to attend the program, the students have convinced several teachers to award extra credit to students who attend.
But the program is open to everyone, not just students, the Youth Council members said.
The students said there are a lot of myths about suicide.
Adults, especially, tend to be uncomfortable about the subject and "sweep it under the rug."
In their experience, suicide and depression issues are more common than adults would like to admit.
Some students said they have friends who have dealt with depression or self-harm or suicidal thoughts; some have faced similar problems themselves.
Monday's program, led by speaker Emily Kelley, is intended to debunk myths, equip people with the tools to recognize symptoms and link them with helpful resources.
Doing something after a tragedy happens is not enough, the students interviewed stressed.
"We want to be proactive, not reactive," said Caitlyn Otto.