“Make sure people know what you are going through. Even if to someone else it might feel like a small thing, to you if it’s a big thing, then it is a big thing. Be open to talking about it.”
“You can talk to your counselors, your teachers or your friends or your parents. There are really a lot of people who understand and care about you.”
“Your parents can be your best confidant.”
Lassiter High School and Pope High School students recently joined together to talk openly to their peers who may be contemplating suicide. The students were part of a panel, which included suicide prevention specialists and entertainers from Q99.7 who led the discussions. The My Voice event was live streamed from inside Lassiter’s Concert Hall and was designed to improve the outcomes of youth through hope, empowerment, and conversation about the pressures of social media bullying, depression, and suicide.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in Georgia for individuals ages 10-14 and 15-24, according to the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health of Developmental Disabilities.
“If we can save just one life, I’m glad we did [the event,]” said Bert Weiss, The Bert Show host and My Voice panel moderator.
Members of Lassiter’s Sources of Strength club, which has trained more than 200 students on how to recognize when their peers are exhibiting signs of trouble, provided the student perspective on the panel. Parents in the audience listened as the students revealed how parents can help their children who may be struggling.
“The best thing you can do is listen, be there, and ask questions,” one student advised parents.
Talk to your child about their social accounts, others advised. Even if you don’t understand, try, the students urged.
“What kids really want is for someone to listen,” insisted another student panelist.
The students and parents also heard from behavioral health experts like Walker Tisdale III, the suicide prevention director with BHDD.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the question. Are you thinking about taking your life? Don’t be afraid of the answer you receive? Sometimes you may be the only one the person feels comfortable sharing the information with,” Tisdale explained.
He warned about the dangers of someone not having anyone they can talk to when they are hurting.
“So, if someone is feeling down, feeling neglected and feeling isolated, and they don’t feel that they can talk to someone, that’s a problem,” Tisdale added.
The BHDD panelist encouraged the parents and students at the event to know where to go in case of a crisis. Don’t wait until a crisis happens. Add the Georgia Crisis and Access Line phone number 1-800-715-4225 to your phones, Tisdale urged.
“You will get immediately connected to a caring professional who is trained to ask you some questions,” explained Wendy Martinez Farmer, CEO of Behavioral Health Link. “Don’t be afraid to give them the answer. Don’t be afraid to tell them what you are feeling. We get 1,000 phone calls a day at the Georgia Crisis and Access Line. Know that nothing surprises us, nothing is off limits to talk about. For everyone who dies by suicide, there were over 300 thinking about it, but they don’t. There really is hope out there if you just take the time to ask someone to listen.”
Reinforcing the message of hope, the My Voice event featured performances by hit artists like Ally Brooke, AJ Mitchell, Atlanta’s Own OBB, and motivational speaker Ryan Akin.
Mitchell advised the students to surround themselves with a good group of people who can help them stay positive. As he attested, friends are important.
Brooke wowed the audience with her uplifting performance onstage, but it’s her advice that the students should remember.
“Fight for yourself every day. Hang in there and believe in yourself,” she said.