Student Voice of Denver South High School

Seek Help, We Have The Resources

September 12, 2017

The summer before I started tenth grade I had just moved back to my home city, Denver Colorado, after a three year stay in Charleston, South Carolina. That past year, I had experienced my sharpest, most bitter and drawn out depressive episode. The repeat started in July of 2014, and I don’t think it ended until July of 2015. It felt like a depressive saga,  more than anything. The entire school year I felt supremely isolated from all my classmate, like no one else at my school could have possibly understood what I felt like constantly. I was ignorant to have thought this, because in June of 2015, I heard from a friend that a boy I had gone to school with had committed suicide just a few days prior. I didn’t really know this boy, I didn’t have classes with him, or talk to him outside of school, to me he was just a name to a face, but it was then I realized that I was never alone, and neither was he, but unfortunately that feels like the reality for most teenagers dealing with mental illness. Now, in 2017, in Arapahoe County, since the beginning of the school year there have already been multiple teen suicides. It’s truly clear that we are in the midst of a truly awful situation, when it comes to the mental health of students everywhere.


The fact of the matter is that one out of every five teenagers struggle with some sort of mental illness, whether it be an anxiety disorder, a personality disorder, a psychotic disorder, an eating disorder, etc.,  but 79% of them will never receive any sort of mental health care. Of course, this is a huge problem, because a person dealing with an untreated mental illness will often times self medicate with addictive drugs and alcohol. Furthermore, students with mental illness hold a higher dropout rate than any other disabled group, 50% of students living with a mental illness from the ages of fourteen to eighteen will drop out of school. Finally, there is the harsh fact that suicide is the leading cause of death in people from the ages of fifteen to twenty-four, killing more than “cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined,” yet somehow many schools manage to ignore all of these facts, as if a sizable amount of their student body isn’t in life threatening danger.

Considering that this epidemic facing high schools everywhere is threatening the lives of so many students, including many South High students, I spoke with Stephanie Onan, the social worker here at South, about her stance on what students and faculty can do in order to put a halt to this issue that has been facing students for years. “It’s not taboo,” she said, “and we should be talking about it.” “What a lot of people think is that if we openly talk about suicide at school, them we will put the idea in the student’s heads, but that’s just not true.” Ms. Onan is passionate about letting students know that there is a plethora of mental health resources throughout the school, including herself, the Denver health therapist, Ms. Rutledge, the school psychologist, etc. She stated that it is so important for students to  reach out for help when needed, so that “No students fall through the cracks.”

According to Ms Onan, the South Administration has actually been organizing programs for the class of 2021, on how to deal with Suicidal thoughts and actions, and how to help students who you fear may be in danger. However, it isn’t just the responsibility of the faculty and staff to make this problem go away, everyone has to take some responsibility. That means that if any of your friends start talking about wanting to end their lives, you need to tell an adult, so that they can get help. If you are feeling alone, scared or start thinking about wanting to kill yourself, please, get help, tell a teacher, a doctor or anyone of the mental health professionals at South.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone urgently about yourself or someone else, here are some emergency hotline numbers that are free to use:

National Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255

Safe2Tell: 1-866-488-7386

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