TONKA NEWS

Ending the candlelight vigils

Recent suicide in Kansas City spark discussions about suicide prevention

Katie Bullock, Editor-in-chief

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Katie Bullock
A candle burns as a symbol of the candlelight vigils that are often held after suicide deaths.

Kansas city and candlelight vigils

“I believe in you.” “You are important.” “Everyone matters.”

On the sidewalk outside of Shawnee Mission Northwest High School, these are the messages on the signs held by students and parents.

It is Jan. 25, a cold morning. The sign holders wear coats, gloves and hats in the wind. The trees are bare. The sun is just beginning to rise in the dark blue sky. One day earlier, the school lost one of its own students to suicide. Two days before that, they had lost another.

These are not the first suicide deaths in the Kansas City area. In March 2017, two Belton students died from suicide just days apart. In September, it was 17-year-old Gamesha Thomas, a student at Lee’s Summit North, that lost her life. Both communities held candlelight vigils in the days following student deaths. Wax melted on concrete sidewalks and rose-lined picture frames; they called it memoriam.

Just over a month ago, on Dec. 15, junior Carli Crum attempted to take her own life.

“I just hit rock bottom,” Carli said. “I’m a perfectionist so I’m always putting pressure on myself to just be the best. I don’t like to fail so I don’t want to talk to anybody or reach out to anybody because then it feels like I’m failing or I’m going to fall off.”

A taboo topic

According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide rates among teens have been steadily increasing for more than a decade. Since 2007, the rate of suicide among girls ages 15 to 19 has doubled. The suicide rate over the same time period for boys of the same age increased by 30 percent.

In 2004, Chad McCord of St.Louis was one of the many victims of suicide. As a result, his mother Marian McCord co-founded the CHADS [Communities Healing Adolescent Depression and Suicide] coalition, a non-profit organization where she currently serves as the executive director.

“Our society is not ready to look at how big this problem is and the number of lives mental illness is taking,” McCord said. “In spite of suicide being the second leading cause of death among our teens, we as a society have invested so very poorly in prevention and better treatment options.”

One of the problems with the way suicide is handled revolves around the way mental illness is viewed, according to McCord, who emphasizes that mental illness is a real physical ailment.

In recent years, campaigns for the visibility of mental health and suicide have increased awareness about it in the general public. On April 28, 2017 popular musicians Alessia Cara, Khalid and Logic dropped the now grammy-nominated joint song entitled ‘1-800-273-8255,’ the number of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL), which discussed the topic of teen suicide.