Holidays can be a stressful time for many, including teenagers. That’s why this week’s suicide prevention presentation at Holtville High School came at the perfect time.
Margaret Strahm is the founder of the local Yellow Ribbon Club and made the presentation, which was followed by a skit performed by high school students who are in the club.
“You can make a difference,” Strahm told the attentive student body, ” and we can turn the statistics around.”
The suicide rate among teenagers is actually increasing, and Strahm is doing everything she can to reduce it. Holtville is just one of the high schools in the Imperial Valley that she made her presentation.
Strahm and her daughter Katie formed the club after her 19-year-old son Aaron committed suicide 17 years ago. She shares her memories of the emotional event in hopes that she can reach out to others and convince them to get help.
Stress is just one of the factors that can lead to thoughts of suicide. Drugs, alcohol and depression can all play a part.
Among the stressful triggers mentioned were experiencing a recent trauma or loss, family of school issues, being bullied, and the feeling of having to be perfect and pressured to succeed. She noted that cyberbullying has become such a big thing because rather than having to deal with a single or small group of bullies, a child might now be harassed by a huge number of others.
“Stand up to a bully,” Strahm urged the students if they see someone being picked on for whatever reason. “It can take someone down.”
While going over the reasons someone might not want to get involved in stopping a bully, she pointed out that doing nothing is actually doing something. It allows the act to continue, and the victim to continue suffering.
Strahm recounted the story of how the first Yellow Ribbon Club was founded. A teenager committed suicide inside his car in the driveway of his family’s home just seven minutes before they arrived home.
In the immediate aftermath, many of his friends were looking for something they could do to help so they created yellow cards with information on how to seek out help and attached yellow ribbons to them. Their friend’s car had been yellow.
Less than a month later, a high school counselor in the next state reported that a student had come to her with one of the cards seeking help, and that was wheneveryone realized that the program could extend beyond just helping kids in that immediate area.
Strahm stressed that no matter how bad things seem, they will get better. She said that her first grandchild was born six months after Aaron’s death and she thinks things would have turned around and he would have been the greatest uncle, but never got the chance.
She encouraged the teens to always seek out help if a friend confesses that he or she is contemplating suicide. Even if they get angry, a mad friend is better than a dead friend.
Suicide prevention cards were given to every student to hang onto. One side tells them what to do if they think a friend is considering suicide, and the other is for when the student he or she is thinking about it.
“I promise you it’s okay to ask for help,” Strahm told the teens.