‘There is a brighter side:’ Students pitch in to raise money, offer advice amid rise in depression among teens

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MCCOOK, Ill. — Emergency rooms are seeing a rise in suicide attempts, especially among teenagers, as the pandemic has increased depression and anxiety across the board. 

But some teens are trying to get the message out that help is there if others need it.

Student athletes took time away from their studies Sunday to try and raise some serious money to benefit a serious cause. 

Among those taking part was college freshman Savannah Johnson, who opened up about her own story Sunday.

“During my sophomore year of high school I attempted to take my own life, after getting the help I needed I’m here to tell you, it’s going to be okay,” Johnson said. “No matter how bad you think your day has gotten, or how bad it’s going to get, there is a brighter side.”

A Department of Health and Human Services study in 2019 showed approximately 18.8% of young people had seriously considered attempting suicide, 15.7% had made a plan,  8.9% had made an attempt and 2.5% had made a suicide attempt requiring medical treatment.

Additionally, 39% of all attempts were made by a high schooler who identified as LGBTQ due to ongoing stigma.

“We’ve definitely seen a rise in numbers for suicides and attempted suicides, depression and anxiety all together,” said Kaylie Dahms, a Plainfield Central High School senior. “I think it’s really scary knowing that so many students and student athletes my age, that I go to school with are going through a lot of stuff.”

The students hosted a pie eating contest Sunday, meant to put a more accessible face on the subject while bringing in money to help.

The winning team got $1,000 for their charity that deals with mental health, compliments of the PepsiCo Showdown and Buddy’s Helpers.

For Johnson and others, it’s a call to reach out even as we continue to socially distance.

“If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, speak up,” she said. “You need to check on your friends, make sure they’re doing alright.  It’s a simple phone call, simple text, it’ll make a great difference.”

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