School Assembly Aims to Prevent Suicides

JONATHAN DALE PHOTO Liz Ryerson sits at her desk at Imperial High School. Liz Ryerson, the Imperial County Office of Education student assistance representative for the Imperial Unified School District, took time Thursday to explain the importance of today’s assembly and informational seminars.

It is a sad time when, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, untreated depression is the No. 1 cause of suicide, and suicide is the third-leading cause of death among teenagers.

That’s why Imperial High School will host a special assembly and workshops by Aaron and Michelle Moore, licensed therapists from Florida and part of the non-profit To Write Love On Her Arms, a suicide prevention organization started on MySpace.

Q: Liz, what are today’s events all about? What can students and staff expect to experience?

A: (Today) we have what’s called a “Be A Link” assembly. This is the continuation of a series of suicide-prevention events and handouts we have done. Here at our school, we’re all connected. Just the fact that a student attends this school means they matter, and we’re all responsible for each other. Every first-period class made a paper link and at the assembly. All of those students will connect their links together into a chain that should be half a football field long. It’ll be a real visual picture for the kids: that at our school we all want to be there for each other.

Q: How does To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA) fit in to this?

A: It was important to the school to find an organization that would specifically deal with the issues we want to deal with, such as self-injury and depression. Kids live online, so it is just a perfect fit to have To Write Love On Her Arms, because that organization started as a MySpace group and then went to Facebook. That’s where most teenagers hang out now, so through those sites TWLOHA reaches a lot of kids. We thought it would be something the kids would listen to.

Q: Why is this assembly being held at this particular time of the students’ lives?

A: Part of what I do here is prevention, intervention and education. I deal with all kinds of issues, whether it be grades, family issues, drugs, depression, etc. I’m available to help kids sort out what’s bothering them and then refer them to someone who can help. We just want this event to be another resource to these kids. In addition, they’re not just doing the assembly; they’re also privately talking to the teachers during lunch today. Then at 4:30 p.m. they’re going to do a parent meeting in Room 102. Even though the assembly is just for us, the afternoon parent meeting is for anyone who wants to come.

Q: What are you hoping the students, staff and parents get out of this?

A: I want the kids to have the courage to have an honest conversation with their parents about these issues, and to encourage them to seek professional health if it’s ever necessary. I want parents to be able to hear what their kids could be going through, and to be willing to help them, even if it includes getting them outside help.

Article Reprinted Courtesy of Imperial Valley Press