LOUDOUN COUNTY, Va. (WUSA9) -- A Loudoun County High School takes its first steps against teen suicide.
The auditorium doors were covered at Loudoun County’s Woodgrove High School as more than 1,000 students watched a movie recorded by their peers. “She basically told me that I’m worthless,” said a current student in the video.
The next student to speak said, “I went to the bathroom, I locked the door and I attempted to hang myself.”
They’re words this student body has never heard before like this, in front of the entire school, staff and parents. But it’s a personal story this student and many more felt needed to be shared as the school now fights to shed light on teen suicide. Woodgrove High School took its first big step on Wednesday, holding their first 1.5 mile We’re All Human Teen Suicide Prevent Walk, in honor of the Loudoun County students lost to suicide. The auditorium rally followed. Why?
“It’s not very talked about. There’s a stigma attached to suicide-mental illness and we wanted to breakdown those barriers,” says Woodgrove High School’s Director of Counseling, Geri Fiore.
Students decided it was time to talk about it a few months ago, when 17-year-old William Robinson took his life at a county playground, one of four teens to commit suicide in Loudoun County in just 2016 alone, says the school’s Principal.
This isn’t the first time these students have dealt with grief. Ryan Bartel, whose family sponsored the walk, took his life in 2014.
There’s even more victims and it’s not just in Loudoun County. Just last year, Prince William County, Virginia lost four students in just days.
In 2013, the Center for Disease Control says suicide was the second leading cause of death among persons aged 15-24 years.
“I don’t know if all of you guys knew but this year in Loudoun County, the first cause of death is teen suicide with second being car accidents,” said a student, part of the We’re All Human Committee, formed after the recent suicides to spread awareness.
“I’ve had three friends in Loudoun County commit suicide in the past two years,” says Woodgrove grad, Sarah Harkins while wearing Robinson’s ski cap, “it was never something that we thought would happened and then it did and just one after the other now.”
Organizers say Wednesday was about letting students know they have someone to.
“A lot of kids feel, we get stressed out. You know, and as we go through puberty, things change,” said Sydney Ramirez talking about some of the pressures he deals with. This is not new for high school students. What is new is technology. “I think with technology, they’re never off,” said Woodgrove Principal, William Shipp. Shipp discussed that also being a major issue when it comes to cyber bullying: kids are now taking it home.
No matter the stress, William Robinson’s mother told WUSA 9, “I think the important thing to understand is this goes on in the heart and brains of children all over the place.” Anne Charlotte and her husband, Martin Robison, say they’re still grappling with the grief and guilt of their son’s loss and are just thankful the students decided to spread awareness throughout the school in this way. They also tell WUSA 9, their son had Bipolar Disorder on top of his depression.
The students say they can make a difference.
“All of us knew these kids personally and loved them and it kind of put that life into perspective that it can end,” said Annabel Nelson.
“We’re not going to let anybody be alone. We’re not going to let anybody feel like they’re worthless and we’re going to really prevent this from now on,” said senior, Rachel Louis.