When the school day began at South Pasadena High last Friday, the campus was littered with students wearing bright orange shirts, a clear indication the school’s Peer Mediator’s Club on campus was making itself known.
Following the day’s first class, students were greeted by hundreds of backpacks and bags set out across campus. Nearly every bag contained a note about someone who has committed suicide. A few even contained real belongings from that person’s life.
For many, it was an amazing sight. Everywhere you looked there were bags and signs with statistics about this epidemic, especially hitting teens. Spirits dropped as numbers of people taking their own lives were displayed as more than just print on paper, but faces and stories of those that depression took a toll on. As students were ushered into the assembly, no one knew quite what to expect.
After the president of Peer Mediators, Will Hoadley-Brill, gave an introduction, representative David Romano from Active Minds began his speech. Romano got right into it about how mental health is something that teenagers should be aware of and take every extra step to improve. He shared his personal battle with depression and left students both shocked and upset about the events he went through during his childhood battling this illness. To compare the constant struggle of living with a mental illness such as depression, Romano shared his experience with the Active Minds event of Biking Across America.
By biking for 43 days from California to Washington D.C., Romano described the similarities with constant struggles in his life. When comparing these two issues he discussed that some days you might want to give up, but each time you just have to look around that bend for a glimmer of hope to keep you going. With the school-wide assembly and displayed backpacks on campus, Peer Mediators realized this was a heavy topic to bring upon students without a follow-up of what all of this information meant.
“We brought in Active Minds to be a catalyst for the conversation regarding the stigma surrounding mental health and supplying resources to students who struggle with mental illnesses or just daily stress,” Will Hoadley-Brill said.
At the end of Romano’s talk, the club announced there would be a debriefing session during lunch, after school, and that night about how individuals can help others dealing with depression or excessive stress.