Student-led event raises awareness about suicide and mental health issues
Posted on 05/21/2018
Group photo of Suicide Walk participants at FPHSStudents in Shannon Geraghty’s Advanced Placement Government class at Forest Park High School coordinated a Suicide Awareness Walk to raise awareness about mental health issues in the hopes of preventing suicide. They spent hours planning and preparing for the event.

“This involved hours of work inviting guests, organizing supplies, making hundreds of posters, going around the community asking for people to commit to coming to the walk, garnering press publicity, planning speeches, creating a website, and setting up all the tables and balloons ahead of the walk,” Daniel Dereberry, senior, said.

In addition, each student did their own research on suicide and mental health to become more informed about the issue.

“It’s a very personal issue to me,” senior Nathan Graham shared. “My friends and I have struggled with mental health issues. Supporting the cause is the right thing to do.”

Before the start of the walk, students shared personal stories and explained why the event was important to them. Senior Christian Finley had his friends in mind, “It means a lot to me. I have people close to me that have struggled with mental health issues and I care about those people.”

Several School Board Members attended the event to show their support in bringing attention to this critical issue that has impacted the lives of so many students. They included School Board Interim Chairman At-Large Dr. Babur B. Lateef, Vice Chairman and Occoquan District School Board Member Lillie G. Jessie, Potomac District School Board Member Justin David Wilk, and Gainesville District School Board Member Alyson A. Satterwhite. At the event Mr. Wilk presented Geraghty with the Virginia Education Association’s Community Service Silver Award. Special guest speakers included United States Congressman Gerry Connelly, Virginia Senator Jeremy McPike and Virginia’s Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

This was the fourth year of this annual event. Approximately 1,000 participants walked six-miles from Forest Park High School to Hylton High School. As in years past students invited the entire Prince William County community to attend.

“It’s more than just the people at Forest Park High School. It’s important to the people who are silently suffering and need an outlet to see that they’re not alone,” said senior Tyler Cardenas.