WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange School District recognized Green Ribbon Week, held Sept. 19-23, in an effort to educate young people about ways to maintain good mental health practices, encourage adults to engage in practices that facilitate dialogue with young people, and make conversations about mental health as common as conversations about physical health.
Suicide has become the third leading cause of death in youths ages 15-24, the first being unintentional injury, such as drug overdoses and traffic accidents, and the second, homicide.
Sept. 21 was the Day of Solidarity. Teachers, staff and students in all West Orange schools were encouraged to wear green and spend at least 20 minutes outdoors. Everyone was encouraged to breathe each day — to spend at least one minute to inhale good and positive thoughts and exhale stress.
At West Orange High School, Principal Hayden Moore; West Orange Councilwoman Tammy Williams, who founded the West Orange STOP Suicide Advocacy Coalition; and members of the Student Council rededicated the serenity bench located in the senior courtyard. The bench honors the memory of Zach Massader, a member of the WOHS Class of 2011, who died by suicide in 2017. Zach Massader’s parents, Abdel and Lauren Massader, gifted the bench so that students could take a moment away from overwhelming emotions and break the stress response cycle. The inscription on the bench reads, “Everything I desire is within me” — a well-known quote by Deepak Chopra.
Williams plans to work with the high school to design a zen garden to surround the bench and create a space for students to find a place of calm.