W.F. West High School students going to school this month should expect to see parents gathered around the student drop-off area holding signs, not in protest, but to offer words of encouragement to a student body reeling from two recent student suicides.
Groups of parents intend to stand outside the school with their messages of support every school morning in October.
“I just think words of encouragement and a lot of love is what our student body needs right now,” said April Cole, the mother of a W.F. West sophomore. Cole decided to join the sign-holders after seeing another parent holding a sign while she was driving her student to school last week.
She posted a thank-you to that “mystery mom” on her Facebook page and it wasn’t long before other parents decided to join in.
“I hope this inspires more people, I really do, because I think the kids need a lot of encouragement and kind words right now. There’s so much happening in this world that they need this,” Cole said.
Others in the community are also working to support students and their families who are struggling with the recent deaths. Bethel Church in Chehalis hosted a suicide awareness and prevention night for teens and parents last week to view the 2016 documentary “Not Alone,” a film that explores mental health and suicide attempts amongst teenagers. The event also aimed to connect community members to mental health resources.
One local educator, Tammy Lund, led a prayer walk around W.F. West Saturday morning.
“We’re going to just go and we are going to pray so that this community knows that we are here and that we love them and most importantly that God loves them,” said Lund in a Facebook Live video on her way to the walk.
Neighboring Centralia High School sent out letters with information on mental health resources to its student body last week.
“Our hearts go out to the Chehalis School District and those families and those staff and students,” said Centralia School District Superintendent Lisa Grant during a monthly virtual Q&A with Centralia parents. “If you see a concern in your child or have a question, please reach out to your child’s school counselor and they will help connect you to resources.”
School administrators encourage parents to talk to their children about mental health issues, even younger children.
“From a perspective of elementary students, it's perfectly OK to talk as parents with them about their emotional wellbeing and to ask some very direct questions, as uncomfortable as those are,” said Fords Prairie Elementary Principal David Roberts.
He added that most times, just asking “how are you doing” isn’t as productive as being direct about your concerns.
“Kids are really filled with no nonsense and I think the more forthright we can be in our conversations, they’re more sophisticated in many ways than we ever were growing up, and trust that they’ll answer you and give them plenty of opportunity to do,” he said.
• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 or suicidepreventionlifeline.org
• Veterans Crisis Line: 800-273-8255 or text to 838255 or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now/
• Lifeline Crisis Chat: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/gethelp/lifelinechat.aspx
• Crisis Text Line: 741741 or www.crisistextline.org/
• Lewis County 24-hour Crisis Line: 800-803-8833 or 360-807-2440
• NAMI Information Line: 800-950-6264, or visit namilewiscountywa.org to connect with the local chapter
• Cascade Community Healthcare: 360-807-2440 or cascadecommunityhealthcare.org
• A full list of behavioral health agencies in Washington, broken out by county, is available online at www.doh.wa.gov/Portals/1/Documents/Pubs/606019-BHADirectory.pdf