Why Stevenson High students wore semicolon pins Friday
Hundreds of students and staffers at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire donned buttons featuring semicolons Friday to promote suicide prevention.
The punctuation marks refer to Project Semicolon, a national suicide prevention program. Each represents a life that could have been ended by suicide but continued.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ending about 4,600 young lives annually.
Members of Stevenson's Peer Helpers club wanted to bring public attention to the crisis -- and chip away at the stigma around mental health -- with a week of activities.
"If we raise awareness that this is something that can happen to any student, we can save lives," club member Justin Wang said.
The Peer Helpers handed out about 450 circular, blue-and-white buttons before classes began Friday. Each came with a printed explanation of the semicolon's symbolism.
Club member Marissa Schwarz was pleased to see most students reading the information as they walked away with their buttons, rather than tossing the sheets into trash bins.
"I've had a couple friends who have struggled with mental health and depression, and it's very important to me to help them keep it going," she said.
In other mental health week promotions, Peer Helpers wrote positive self-image messages on the school's bathroom mirrors and filmed commercials about mental health for the morning announcements.
Students also broke cookies decorated with images reflecting past or current mental health struggles and the stigmas around mental health.
"It's not something to be hidden," club sponsor Sarah LaFrancis said. "(It) needs to be discussed."
Greater awareness could lead to a normalization of feelings about mental health issues and more government funding for treatment, LaFrancis said.
"Projects like this do a great job of starting those conversations," she said.
If you need help for yourself or someone else, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling (800) 273-8255 or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org.