A student’s story

Penn College hosts community walk

Hundreds of members of the community gathered as the Pennsylvania College of Technology hosted the Out of the Darkness Community Walk on Oct. 21. This event was part of a larger effort headed by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in the fight against this threat.

Although the dangers of depression, self-harm and suicide are evident in the world of today, these problems are rarely addressed or explained. This, of course, is understandable due to the sensitivity of the subject but many believe that this is something that still needs to be discussed and brought into the light.

Every two years, sixth, eighth, 10th and 12th grade students participate in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS), which aims to collect information about knowledge, attitudes and behaviors towards alcohol and tobacco use. PAYS always is expanding and editing their survey to better measure threats to the youth in our community. Recently, questions regarding mental health have been making a more prominent appearance on the surveys and the data which resulted may surprise you.

Underage drinking and cigarette smoking are two of the most well-known threats to our youth today and in 2015, 8.2 percent of students grades six to 12 reported smoking cigarettes and 18.98 percent of students reported consumption of alcohol. In comparison, 42.3 percent stated that they felt depressed or sad most days. That’s nearly half of the students interviewed. Additionally, 36.2 percent of students reported believing they often thought that he or she is no good at all and 21.5 percent believed he or she is a failure. One of the most surprising statistics directly relates to suicide in that 18.5 percent of students considered taking suicidal actions and 14.8 percent planned out how they would do it.

These statistics provide a glimpse of the threat that depression, self-harm and suicide present to our society. There are more students contemplating suicide than smoking cigarettes and nearly as many planning suicides as drinking alcohol. The percentages of suicide-related issues have risen over the years and show no sign of slowing down.

This is the motivating force behind community efforts like the Out of the Darkness Community Walk. Organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention are taking steps to educate people about suicide and provide assistance for those struggling with it. If you or someone you know struggles with suicide or depression, there is help out there. There are many community groups which are designed to aid in this fight. For a more immediate form of assistance, there are free, anonymous hotlines such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

This threat knows no target age group, no specific gender and no social classes. If we aim to fight suicide, then the effort also must know no bounds.

Thompson is a senior at Hughesville High School. Her column is published on the second and fourth Mondays of each month in the Education section. She can be reached at education@­ sungazette.com.