Local teens march in fight against suicide

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WASHINGTON — Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the U.S., even surpassing homicides.

But students at Forest Park High School in Woodbridge, Virginia, refuse to remain silent on a topic that some people just don’t want to talk about.

Robbie Koch, senior class president at Forest Park High School remembers being called into a classroom when the new school year started. That’s when he found out his friend and former classmate Nathan Wiley lost his life to suicide at age 17.

“Hearing the news in class, it was heartbreaking. It was something I was really not mentally prepared for,” Koch said. “It’s really hard to cope with and understand, seeing a couple of your pals lose their lives to it.”

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On Saturday, seniors at the school held the third annual Suicide Awareness Walk as a way to remember their fallen classmates, help end the stigma surrounding mental illness and spread awareness about suicide prevention.

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This year’s walk was in memory of Nathan Wiley, a former cadet of the school’s JROTC Program, and Dalton Woolf.

“It’s a really deep topic but if we don’t educate ourselves we can’t do anything to end it. It’s such a scary topic,” Kock said. “Everyone wants to ignore it and hope that it goes away but it’s clearly not going away and the statistics prove that.”

The walk was started three years ago by students in an Advanced Placement (AP) Government class at the school, in memory of a student who died by suicide.

Forest Park High School Principal Richard Martinez said it would be great if other schools would come together and make it an entire community effort in Prince William County.

Martinez said the walk is a wake-up call for the community to better understand mental health issues. He hopes the walk continues in the future and continues to spread awareness about the problem.

Though the walk focuses on education and prevention of suicide, Martinez said that unfortunately, sometimes there are no signs that someone is thinking about suicide.

He recalls having dinner with a close friend a week before his friend decided to take his life.

“And there were no signs,” he said.

Sen. Jeremy McPike (D-Va.) knows this battle all too well, since his brother took his own life at the age of 16.

McPike said it is only recently that he’s able to talk about it.

“I never want to have another family experience (like) what we went through,” he said.

McPike, Congressman Jerry Connelly and Virginia Lt. Govern Ralph Northam spoke to the community about mental health issues and suicide prevention in the gym at Forest Park High School before the walk.

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McPike said that in addition to students walking approximately 6 miles from Forest Park High School to Hylton High School, they also lined Spriggs Road for miles with signs on suicide prevention and awareness.

McPike hopes the signs will “help educate, not just the kids but the entire community.”

Resources:
Span (Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginian) call: 703 527-4077 or Text: “CONNECT” to 85511
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) 24 hours a day seven day a week
National Hopeline Network: 800-SUICIDE

The post Local teens march in fight against suicide appeared first on WTOP.

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