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Kansas City-area moms raise suicide prevention awareness for students

Give Me 20
Posted at 1:38 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-01 14:38:07-04

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KSHB) — Two moms in Johnson County, Missouri are hoping to raise awareness about suicide and mental health for students through life boxes.

For BJ Thomas-Wilson and Sylvia Harrell, co-founders of #GiveMe20, their mission is personal after both lost their teenagers to suicide.

“He was outgoing, he participated in sports, basketball, track, the musical. He had lots of friends! Teachers and kids loved him," Harrell said.

She lost her son Chad in 2017. Thomas-Wilson's daughter, Regan, died later that same year. They say they knew something had to be done to help children in need and need and prevent parents from feeling the same pain they feel.

“We want to change the mindset that instead of spending 20 minutes on how to end their life, take 20 minutes to live their life," BJ Thomas-Wilson, #GiveMe20 co-founder said.

The two women created #GiveMe20, an organization geared towards helping students in those critical 20 minutes.

“Effectively, they are creating a life box. It’s a box they can go to when they are in a dark moment or they are sad or they are stressed," Harrell said.

KSHB 41 News got the chance to see students build these boxes at Pleasant Ridge Middle School, the same school Chad went to. So, this hit home for both moms.

“I think it was very important and hearing their stories really impacted me as a person. I think it shows you that you think you aren’t worth living but then once you actually do pass, you see how many people loved you," Amanda Lewis, student at Pleasant Ridge Middle School said.

The middle school students KSHB 41 spoke with said mental health needs to be a prioritized topic.

“I think it’s not talked about enough and it’s very stigmatized," Wes Kratochvil, eighth-grader at Pleasant Ridge Middle School, said. “It’s something we should take seriously."

In these boxes are photos of their friends, families and letters from loved ones, teachers and peers — serving as a lifeline for these kids. When in those dark moments, they can lift the lid of the box and see the light in the world.

"It’s an issue that happens to everyone eventually. You always at some point find yourself being sad or hopeless and you need something to pick yourself up," Kratochvil said.

That's what these two mothers hope to accomplish through their time and effort.

“If there was one thing that we talked about that sticks in their brain, if there was one thing that we said that registered with them of asking for help or talking to your friends or just recognizing that no pain lasts forever, that’s our goal. That’s what we want," Thomas-Wilson said.

The hope is to get other schools, school districts to take part in the #GiveMe20 boxes.