WAPAKONETA —Wapakoneta High School junior Dustin Jarrett knows what it is like to feel depressed and think about suicide. He also knows how it feels to get help.
“When the depression was bad and I was on the verge, I asked an adult for help and it worked,” Dustin said Thursday, the same day a public service announcement he created was unveiled at school.
He is a member of the school’s Gatekeepers group. Members have been trained to see signs of suicide and know how to prevent it. The group of 40 meets monthly and sponsors events at the school to increase awareness.
Members were front and center Thursday as the The Auglaize County Suicide Prevention Coalition, a program of the Partnership for Violence Free Families, hosted a suicide prevention day event during lunch.
After seeing the public service announcement, students crowded around a table for a chance to win T-shirts, sandals and other prizes. On every item was information on how to get help if they or someone they know thinks about suicide.
Donna Dickman, director of Partnership for Violence Free Families, said Wapakoneta High School is one of the most active in suicide prevention efforts. The Gatekeepers program started several years ago and has been successful, she said.
“The kids are the first ones their peers talk to about this,” Dickman said. “They are like the eyes and the ears of the kids. They do take a real ownership about being a part of the solution. That is huge to them. They just so much want to help.”
Freshmen Dan Reichenbach and Michayla Binkley joined Gatekeepers last school year. They were asked to join and now plan to stay with it throughout high school.
“We are doing something that is benefiting the community, benefiting the students here,” said Dan, who has used what he’s learned to help a friend. “We are not just sitting around and goofing off. We are planning stuff. We are trying to help.”
Michayla saw the impact of suicide up close when one of her brother’s friends took his own life.
“Suicide is a very heavy thing,” she said. “People need to be more aware because if you don’t see the signs, how are you going to be able to save someone’s life.”
Dustin started going to coalition meetings and suggested the public service announcement because he knew the group wanted to get students’ attention.
Set to music, the announcement, which will start appearing on television soon, includes signs of suicide and an assurance that “you are not alone.”
“I hope that people will think about suicide, not as a thing that can’t be talked about but as something that can be prevented,” he said.
For help, call 1-800-567-4673.