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Westside students helping to increase suicide awareness

Posted at 7:26 AM, Mar 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-26 08:26:58-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — A suicide at their high school has Westside teens doing their part to make a difference.

The DECA Marketing Project turned into something so much more than the students could have imagined.

“We had a recent suicide in our district. We were like, mental health is so important, and we instantly decided to go with suicide awareness and how to help out the community," said Madalyn Diprima, a senior at Westside.

“So many things rising as COVID has impacted everyone’s lives, people being isolated from families and friends," said Jillian Snow, another Westside senior.

Their theme, Tomorrow Needs You, is only possible if they take action today.

Mental health and suicide are often taboo topics, especially in schools. These students say through this project they have learned that it is okay to not be okay and they are just happy that in these hallways they have gotten the conversation started.

“Yes, we can walk up to the dean and say, ‘Hey, there is a problem with the bathroom,’ and they will fix it but with mental health and suicide awareness it is a much bigger topic and a heavier topic," adds Diprima.

The suicide hit the students and the community hard.

Snow adds, “The feeling was, it was definitely off, so many people were numb and just shocked about the idea of another student so close to us had passed away. It just isn't talked about in the walls of this school.”

The doors are now open and the conversations started.

Diprima adds, “I don’t know if it is because of COVID or because of us but I really like to believe it is because of us and our project, that we got the conversation started, that it’s okay to talk about your mental health."

They sold t-shirts, did virtual walks, created fliers, posters and invitations. They also held an informational outside a school basketball game. The project is becoming bigger than they had ever imagined.

“In my high school career, I believe we had 2-3. It wasn’t even talked about, no teachers really wanted to be like, ‘Yes, a student died,’ no one reached out and said, ‘Are you guys, okay?’ There was no guidance until we brought it on,” continues Diprima.

Their reach went beyond the classroom and hallways and into the community.

“It is really hard to put into words, I was really proud of them,” said Westside teacher Kalen Carlson. “How into it they really got. When it starts you don’t know how big it is going to get.”

It became big enough to raise $6,000 to help others and important enough to foster change.

Snow adds, “I make sure I ask my family how they are doing, specifically my brother. He just started college. I’ve reached out to him, just a simple are you okay? Or how you are doing. It can make the world of difference to a person and you might not even know it.”

Diprima shares, “My sister's grade, who's a sophomore, was like ‘thank you so much for doing this, thank you for talking about a topic people don’t want to talk about in a school.’ There is no thank you needed, we are just doing something we are passionate about.”

According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, one in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year.

Half of all lifetime mental illnesses begin by age 14 and 75 percent by age 24.

Depression costs the nation about $210 billion annually.

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