Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for teenagers, and a group of Copperas Cove High School students spent a few hours of their Saturday night last week to send a message of hope to those who might be considering such a drastic solution to pain and problems.

“We just want to get the word out that there’s always other options,” said Ashley Wilson, a senior at Cove High and president of the local DECA club, an organization that “prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management in high schools and colleges around the globe.”

To promote increased awareness of teen suicide, the 123-member DECA club joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s nationwide campaign with a candlelight walk aimed at suicide prevention and remembering loved ones lost to suicide.

Dozens of students, family and friends gathered at dusk at Ogletree Gap to share information, hear testimonies from survivors, and conduct a walking candlelight vigil through the park.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of teen suicides has increased in recent years. Statistics show that 19.3 percent of high school students have contemplated killing themselves; 14.5 percent have made actual plans for committing suicide; and 900,000 youths planned suicide during episodes of major depression.

Some of the warning signs that a teen might be at risk for attempting suicide include: Previous suicide attempt(s); psychological and mental disorders, especially depression, social anxiety, and schizophrenia; substance abuse; history of abuse or mistreatment; family history of suicide; feeling of hopelessness; physical illness; financial or social losses; impulsive or aggressive tendencies;

relationship loss; lack of social support or isolation; easy access to methods of suicide; exposure to others who have committed suicide.

Charlotte Heinze, a marketing teacher and DECA sponsor at Cove High, said events like the candlelight walk are important to let suffering young people know that help and support is always available.

“We have a lot of young adults, teens, even kids who are 10, 11, 12, who are taking their lives, and I think this is an important message to put out – to tell them there are people out there who can help you. There are resources that can help you,” Heinze said. “We want to make this an annual event, so that people get to know more about this problem. We need to be able to recognize it, and help people when they need it.”

Miss Wilson agreed.

“I know family members, or friends, who have either tried or been successful committing suicide,” she said. “So I think it’s extremely important for people to know there are ways to get help.”

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