All about awareness
Posted on: Mar 1, 2018
Sometimes talking about a problem can help a person in trouble find peace, and students in the Delano High School COMPASS class opened the door to that conversation this week.
After about six weeks of preparation, the group held its third annual suicide prevention and awareness day on Thursday, March 1.
“Our kids are doing more as far as getting the word out, and people are getting more comfortable talking about mental health in school,” said DHS social worker Marie Techam. “A huge part of it is to end the stigma around mental health issues and create awareness about what students can do if they have a friend they’re concerned about or if they themselves are having a problem.”
In two previous years the event, which includes speakers and the sharing of information about resources students can access for assistance, has encouraged a number of students to seek aid.
“I have ended up being really busy that day because we do get kids that come forward and want help,” Techam said.
Sophomore Emma Dahle said that being involved in the COMPASS program has made it easier to talk about such topics.
“Being surrounded by people who are open and willing to talk about it, it definitely opens your eyes to see how much people are actually afraid to talk about it and how it needs to be talked about more,” she said. “I think talking about it makes people less afraid, because they see that there are people who are willing to listen. It’s not an inconvenience or a burden. It’s something we want to do.”
Senior Madeline Vig agreed.
“We all have different stories, and not everybody knows your story,” she said. “What COMPASS is trying to put forward is, ‘Tell your story. Talk about it. Speak up about your life. Maybe there are hard times going, but don’t be afraid to talk about it with people you trust.’”
Details of the day
During the day students from the COMPASS class (which stands for Character, Opportunity, Mentorship, Perseverance, Academics, Service and Success) made announcements about the signs and symptoms of suicidal behavior and thinking, where to go for help, and how to help a friend.
In addition, all high school students heard speakers from the Bounce Back Project, which focuses on resilience, and Txt4Life, which is a resource for mental health assistance that is designed to meet teens where they are at.
Other features of the day included a banner of hope reading “You’re Irreplaceable” for students to sign, T-shirts for the student body, snacks that came with contact information for trained counselors, and a “We Will” video that talked about things each individual could do to end the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Students also received temporary semicolon tattoos to signify that where an author could have ended a sentence, they chose to continue it instead.
Junior Shianne Christensen said she could testify from experience that the COMPASS program holds value for those dealing with a difficult situation.
“This class helped me get through it and this day has helped me understand everything and keep going and not give up,” she said. “I hope that goes for other people too.”
Junior Andy Betzler said that while many people hide their problems, it is better to be transparent.
“Nobody is perfect. We all fight a battle at some point,” he said. “Talking about it helps.”
The students were aided in organizing the day by Techam and School Within a School instructor Shallyn Tordeur.
“Kudos to Ms. Tordeur and Ms. Techam, because they honestly will never give up on us,” said Vig. “It’s just nice to have that. They’re like at-school mothers.”
Betzler said that description was apt.
“COMPASS is a family,” he said.
And it’s one that isn’t afraid to welcome others.
“We’re basically just trying to show everybody in the school that we love them and we care about them,” said Dahle.