The students in the Peer Leader Organization of one of our high schools are hosting a week-long, school-wide event dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention called Yellow Ribbon Week.2016-04-19-1.jpg

The event is based on the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program which strives to reduce the stigma of mental illness, assist students in identifying available resources, and empower students to seek out help when they need it and to help others when they need it.

All week long, we are wearing yellow ribbons to school.

But that’s not all we are doing.

Cooperation and participation from faculty is pivotal to the success of this program and to the important message it sends.

The goal is to raise awareness and continuously foster an environment where students feel safe. Some of the topics we are making an effort to become more aware of are:

  • unhealthy peer relationships
  • bullying
  • depression
  • suddenly deteriorating academic performance
  • difficulty adjusting to gender identity
  • eating disorders

When students arrive to school for the day, one of the first people to greet them is our security guard, Allen. His yellow ribbon is a reminder to students that the school is both a friendly and safe environment.

Conversations about these topics are not always easy, but they are important for our students’ social-emotional learning. It’s critical that students know when they come to school they are in a safe environment where they can talk about anything.

Throughout the halls, there are many reminders of this week-long program.

Students and faculty are asked to answer “What do you live for?” on yellow ribbons that are displayed on the walls.

We wear the yellow ribbons on our shirts.

We’re also wearing a different color each day to address a specific component of Yellow Ribbon Week:

  • Monday – Blue (our school color, to show that we all have something in common)
  • Tuesday – Red (to bring awareness to bullying)
  • Wednesday – Green (to support Attitudes in Reverse, an organization whose mission is to educate about mental health)
  • Thursday – Purple (to support the school’s Gay Straight Alliance and LGBT community)
  • Friday – Yellow (to culminate Yellow Ribbon Week and bring awareness to suicide prevention)

It’s been encouraging to read all the different things that members of our school community have written on their yellow ribbons. It’s inspiring to see the yellow ribbons lining the halls this week, and many members of our school community wearing their yellow ribbons as well as the color of the day.

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Yellow Ribbon Week is helping the school build a stronger sense of community, a community that makes sure that we look out for one another.

2016-04-19-3.jpgThroughout the day, when I look at students’ faces (as well as those of my colleagues), I am reminded — because of this event — that I have no idea what’s going on in their worlds.

Any of us could be happy or hurting on the inside, and the outside might look just the same.

Because we can’t really know what someone else is going through, it’s important to remember that, sometimes, it’s the little things we can do for one another that can make the biggest difference.

This week’s message is a reminder that we shouldn’t wait for others to say hello to us or smile first; we should all try to be the ones who say hello and smile first — that simple smile might turn someone’s day around. When we see someone we know, we should greet them and ask them how they’ve been — asking about others is a great way for us to let them know we care. When we meet someone new, we should introduce ourselves, try to make them feel welcome, and get to know them. Any of those small gestures can help others feel safe, and help those who are in need feel like they can ask for help.

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And most importantly, we shouldn’t be afraid of the bigger, more difficult conversations, because the difficult conversations are often the ones that can and do change lives and save lives.


~What did YOU do in school today?


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