continues to educate parents and the community about the importance of suicide awareness. Teachers and students who are active members in school-sponsored organizations are working together to make a difference.
Last year, the district held four open meetings and invited parents and students to learn more about the signs of suicide. An organization called Kids Under Twenty One (KUTO) led the sessions. KUTO is a St. Louis nonprofit agency that assists teenagers in dealing with suicide, and recognizing behaviors such as depression and anxiety.
“The district has taken a pretty aggressive hand,” said Superintendent Bernard DuBray. “Parents need to be aware of signs such as depression, not having friends. They need to talk to children.”
Sharon Schertel, English teacher at Fort Zumwalt North High School, lost her son to suicide 10 years ago. “One of the biggest problems is the lack of awareness. People are not aware of depression and the bullying that is going on,” she said.
Schertel is involved in the CHADS Coalition for Mental Health and helps to organize the Kids Walking for Kids annual fundraising event at Creve Coeur Park. The walk welcomes kids of all ages to volunteer on Saturday, May 21. All of the proceeds collected go toward teenage depression and suicide research at Washington University.
“People in the district are more aware, and the administration is helpful. Two years ago two, teen suicides occurred within three months. That really hit the district,” Schertel said.
There have been no student suicides in the past year, DuBray said.
Last year, 46 students from the Fort Zumwalt School District volunteered to walk. This year, Schertel’s goal is to enroll 100 students, as each is required to raise $25 in donations. Corporate sponsors are also welcomed. During the night of the event, volunteers walk around Creve Coeur Lake as a path of luminaries light the way. Each light sits under a decorated bag, symbolizing a life taken by suicide and of those who continue to battle depression.
T-shirts for the walk are currently on sale, and a trivia night is planned for Saturday, March 19 to help raise money for suicide research.
“We want to make the community aware of the signs and what they can do,” Schertel said.
Visit the website for more information regarding awareness and to sign up for Kids Walking for Kids.