West Orange High School holds suicide-prevention initiative

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WEST ORANGE, NJ — As Suicide Prevention Week in the United States came to a close, students, staff and supporting organizations provided a platform to express emotions, positivity and how to get help at West Orange High School.

This is the second year that the Student Council, the WOHS student assistance counselors, Grassroots Community Foundation and the newly-formed West Orange (stop) Suicide Advocacy Coalition spent the week during lunch periods providing information on suicide prevention and encouraging students to share tips on how they deal with stress.

Student Council members Victoria Bratsos and Senay Dani were happy with the response from students.

“There’s been a lot more interest and participation this year,” Bratsos said. “Kids are talking about it.”

“Our student assistance counselors have been here and they’re great,” Dani said.

During the week, emphasis was made on removing the stigma associated with mental health and its challenges. Students were encouraged to listen to one another and offer a smile, a kind word or a simple act of caring to support struggling peers. A wall filled with sticky notes outside the Tarnoff Cafeteria answered the question: “What do you do when you’re stressed out?” Even the simplest things, like focusing, taking deep breaths or a quick walk can help de-stress.

Student assistance counselors Amadeo Chirichiello and Jacklyn Headlam, and senior adviser Catherine Connors worked with students from Student Council, and Tammy Williams of WOSAC was present to answer questions and provide information.

According to the district, disturbing statistics merit the campaign. One in five teenagers will experience depression before they reach adulthood. About 8 percent of teens ages 13 to 18 have an anxiety disorder, with symptoms starting around age 6. More than 500,000 children each year report to the hospital because of self-harm injury. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10 to 24. More than 3,000 suicide attempts are made each day by children in grades nine through 12.

Of particular interest to students was information from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration regarding E-cigarettes and vaping. Although use of actual cigarettes was at an all-time low with teens, there has been a surge in the use of E-cigarettes and vaping, including the use of CBD, THC and butane hash oils, aka “Dabs.” A mysterious lung disease is suddenly striking teens, and appears to be linked to vaping. There have been three deaths and 450 probable cases tied to the condition, leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend that people stop vaping entirely until the source is confirmed.

Photos Courtesy of WOSD