At the beginning of this school year, something pretty incredible happened. Encouraging signs appeared in Smiths Station and photos of them spread across social media.
“Don’t give up.”
“Your mistakes don’t define you.”
These were the messages conveyed throughout the community. For a few days, people wondered from where they came. The signs disappeared then reappeared a few weeks later.
As it turns out, a group of students from Smiths Station High and Glenwood had a message for their peers. In light of bullying, cliques, and a high suicide rate, young people wanted other young people to get the message that they’re not alone in this fight called life —or high school.
About 20 percent of high school students experienced bullying. About 30 percent of young people admit to bullying others. StopBullying.org writes, “Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion, and despair, as well as depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal behavior.”
In the U.S., 2017 saw 47, 173 deaths by suicide. In 2008 in Alabama, the rate was 12.6 per 100,000 people. That number soared to 16.65 per 100,000 people in 2017.
The teens in Smiths Station have personal experience with death by suicide, and they have chosen to act rather than sit idly by and watch another student feel isolated and beyond despair.
But this has to be more than words. It has to be more than a sign telling you that you matter. There has to be action —a deliberate kindness towards the people around us, a conversation when you see someone going through a hard time, a surrounding of love and support.
The students realized that, too, and they are ready to have hard conversations. If you feel lonely, reach out to someone around you. They probably feel lonely, too. If you’re hurting, share that with someone who can help uplift you. We were made for community, and there are people who care. The conversation has begun. Don’t let it stop.
By Denise DuBois, Executive Editor