For the second year, Franklin High School sophomore Amber Sellino has been rallying her classmates and using social media to spread the word about National Suicide Prevention Day, scheduled for Sept. 10. Participants are encouraged to wear yellow to bring awareness to suicide.
After seeing a photo on a social media website about suicide awareness/prevention day last year, Sellino took to social media to get her friends involved. Her efforts had a chain reaction far greater than she could ever have imagined. Last year, through a Facebook group Sellino started, 10,000 invites were sent out around the world and more than 1,300 responded agreeing to participate in the day by wearing yellow in support of suicide prevention. With the success of last year's event, Sellino decided to work to spread the word again this year.
“I am so proud of Amber, she has always been a child who looks at things in the world differently than most people,” said Tracy Amajm, Amber's mother. “Amber truly lives by the motto of never judging a person before getting to know them. In school she has noticed that people bully one another and say mean things about people they don't even know, things that hurt people. Amber want's everyone to know that it is not acceptable and that this behavior is what can lead to depression in kids and adults and eventually suicide. A perfect example recently in our community was the hateful stuff that was posted on YouTube regarding one person's view of our citizens' weight.”
Sept. 10 was first designated as National Suicide Prevention day by the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA). The organization, devoted to the prevention and healing of depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide, has supporters doing what the brand calls for.
Sellino believes that Suicide Prevention Day is important to educate people in order to prevent someone from taking their own life.
“It's important because if no one knows about it then a few years down the road the word suicide is going to be a word no one uses anymore,” said Sellino. “People will think it's unimportant, and suicide is far from unimportant.”
According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010, there were 713,000 emergency room visits due to self-inflicted injury and 38,364 deaths nationwide. Suicide stands as the 10th leading cause of deaths in the United States.
Through Suicide Prevention Day and bringing awareness to it, Sellino hopes people struggling with the decision will find other alternatives and see that there are people in the world who care and that they are not alone. “I hope it makes people think before they act and how it will affect other people,” she said. “How someone words something when talking in a serious conversation could make or break that person. I hope people learn to think before they speak.”
According to Amajm, her daughter's efforts are important because while suicide is not a topic commonly discussed in today's society, the reality of it occurring is all too common.
“Amber's mission is important because suicide is not a topic people like to talk about. It implies death and death is tragic, but it needs to be talked about to raise awareness that this is a very real and preventable type of death,” said Amajm. “I did some research on my own and found that in our own community, kids typically talk with a school counsellor about their issues first and then are referred to outside sources. Unfortunately, the outside sources are so back logged with people that often the kids have to wait weeks to talk to someone and this can be a very dangerous situation. There are studies being done right now that indicate that more than ever our kids are under great amounts of stress. A major culprit been identified as cell phones. The purpose of such technology was intended to make life easier, however studies are showing people have little or no down time because they are always connected and it is affecting their moods, sleep habits and health.”
The facebook group Sellino created to bring awareness to the event has also served as a forum for people to share their stories. “Kids have been posting personally made videos telling their stories of bullying and other derogatory things that have led them to feelings of suicide,” said Amajm. “Kids have been sharing stories of bias they feel because of cultural differences and talked about friends or family members who they have lost to suicide or who have attempted suicide. Their stories are a sad reality and true of what we as adults don't always see in the kids when they close themselves in their bedrooms at night.”
So far, 611 people from various states and even as far as Africa and Europe have accepted invitations to participate in Suicide Prevention Day on Tuesday. Amajm hopes that her daughter's efforts will encourage people in the community to stand up and support each other. “My hope for Amber's event is that all the students around Macon County band together on Sept. 10 and wear anything colored yellow to show support of people who may have been impacted by a suicide or has had thoughts of suicide,” said Amajm. “My long term hope for Amber is that her idea of putting together a public message video to be shown in all schools around the county about things that can lead to suicide can be approved by our school administrators and incorporated into a once a year student assembly.”