GALLIA COUNTY — Are you okay? That is the question students across Gallia County are being told to ask each other. All three high schools and the University of Rio Grande took part in RUOK Day, which promotes Suicide Awareness Week.
“We want kids to know that it’s okay to not be okay,” said Abby Whitt, teacher at River Valley Middle School. Whitt was one of the coordinators for the RUOK program at River Valley.
The central theme for RUOK Day is helping students learn how to help each other when they are struggling with life. Maddee Tabor, a senior at RVHS is doing her capstone project on suicide prevention and spoke at River Valley High and Middle Schools as a part of RUOK Day.
“She did a presentation on how to check on your friends and who to reach out to,” said Whitt. “She told kids to try not get overwhelmed with life and realize that there are other ways to deal with things.” This fit in with the theme of breaking down stereotypes about how to deal with personal problems in society.
“Often in our society we are taught that you have to bury your feelings and not show your weakness,” said Whitt. “It’s okay to not be okay.”
Last year Kelly Bonnice, director of accessibility and mental health services at URG, brought the event to Rio Grande in order to help students deal with stress and difficulty. This year Bonnice and her team obtained a micro-grant through the state to purchase more materials and resources to pass out to students.
“The need for mental health is great at URG. We want to train and get our students used to having difficult conversations about it,” said Bonnice. “We are creating a culture of caring on campus.”
The central theme throughout each of the schools was the desire to help and care for each other. According to the National Institute of Mental Health’s website (nimh.nih.gov), suicide is the second leading cause of death for persons between 15 and 34, and third for persons from 10-14 years of age, across the United States.
“We played out scenarios with students, giving them a chance to start the conversation and role-play helping someone struggling with suicide,” said Bonnice. Bonnice explained to students that in the time it takes to get a cup of coffee, they could change a life. Resources were passed out to help anyone struggling with suicide, in an attempt to save a life and offer the care and help needed.
“You don’t always have to know what to say, but how to be a good listener,” said Bonnice.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108 or firstname.lastname@example.org.