Assemblies about suicide awareness to be held this week

Counselor and speaker explain what is in store for students during the meetings

Emma Russell, Staff Writer

With the biggest goal being awareness, South Counselor Beth Walsh-Sahutske hopes for a successful four meetings on Suicide Prevention with guest speaker Dennis Liegghio. Techniques will be made known to students in order to help them understand what to be aware about and how to respond, Walsh-Sahutske said.

“I think it’s just great. I think the thing about suicide is that it’s a pretty frightening topic for everybody, because being the second leading cause of death of young adults and teens, I think it’s something that most everybody has a familiarity and a relationship with somebody who has either taken their life or attempted to take their life and so it’s very personal. I think that a lot of people have had it cross their own minds as an escape,” Walsh-Sahutske said. “So, the thing that we battle with mental health is just awareness and open discussion and knowledge.”

In order to have a more personal environment at the meetings on Wednesday, Nov. 9 and Thursday, Nov. 10, Walsh-Sahutske plans to have the assemblies in the auditorium with smaller groups, she said. There will be four different speeches for each grade because the impact potential for students in terms of really being able to hear Liegghio’s message will be bigger, Walsh-Sahutske said.

“I think the more that we can pull these things out of the back of the closet and really bring it out into the open and shine some light on it, the better response we will have with people understanding first of all, ‘What do I do if I hear of somebody that needs some help,’ or if ‘I myself need some support and some help, like what do I do in order to get out of this situation healthily.’”

The presentations given by Liegghio are very personal and emotional, with that the expectation isn’t that he will reach all students, but hopes to influence most of them, he said. Liegghio said after these presentations there’s always about a handful of students that do come up afterwards and say thanks or share something they’ve been through, and that is the confirmation for him that he made an impact on at least some.

“I’m going to be sharing my personal story which, in a nutshell, is I lost my dad to suicide when I was a teenager. I struggled with that for many years with my own depression and eventual thoughts of suicide. It was music that was kind of my way out of that. I wrote a song about that loss and about kind of everything that I was keeping bottled up inside. That led to starting a band and just making music for the next few years and traveling around. Eventually, that led to starting up this organization, because I wanted to raise awareness for suicide prevention,” Liegghio said. “And then we’ll talk about the fundamentals, some facts and myths about suicide, risk factors, warning signs, what to do in crisis, how to help a friend, available resources, safety planning, and then at the end I talk about self care, some coping skills for dealing with depression and anxiety and life in general.”

For some people, suicide could be a real issue, so it’s important to have the assembly as an outlet for some kids, so they can hear from someone who’s experienced it first hand, Lillian Fannon ’17 said. To have someone who’s actually been through it so that they can relate to it more easily will have a big impact, she said.

“I think students will respond relatively positively, just because I know it’s such a severe issue and I know we had an issue with it a couple years ago. I think it’s important that they’re making it so everyone has to go and it’s not just an optional thing, that way you don’t feel embarrassed to go if you have an issue or something like that,” Fannon said. “It’s reaching out to more kids than I think they would if they didn’t make it a mandatory thing, so I think it’s a good idea.”

Liegghio has spoken out to over 100,000 students and gives at least 50 of these speeches a year, he said. With that, he has a couple of different goals when sharing his insights on suicide, anxiety and depression, he said.

“The first one is to drive home the message that you shouldn’t keep suicidal thoughts a secret, your own or anyone else’s. And then the second one is a message of personal responsibility,” Liegghio said. “Rough things happen in life and it’s our responsibility to learn how to deal with them. There are ways to cope, there is hope, there is help, and there’s things that we can do to take care of ourselves and we have to do those things.”

There are going to be all the counselors and some extra help from other schools in the area available for anybody that would like to talk afterwards, Walsh-Sahutske said. There is also help to connect parents and kids with other resources outside of the school district, Walsh-Sahutske said.