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Votes

Help Offered in the Wake of Tragedy

Organizations provide information, guidance.

(From left) are seniors Rachel Chalkley, Robyn Smith, Fran Mahon and Lindsay Laiks at the Active Minds information table.

(From left) are seniors Rachel Chalkley, Robyn Smith, Fran Mahon and Lindsay Laiks at the Active Minds information table. Photo by Bonnie Hobbs.

Woodson parent Karen Cogan called the March 5 meeting "a good first start. A lot of us were here to band together and let everyone know we’re there for each other."

"It was a great community turnout, and I appreciated the school-system support services being here to give us some guidance," she said. "They told us what’s available to parents and kids and what [comprises] a crisis team."

Parents also gave written answers to questions they’d received before the meeting. They shared their ideas to better support students, plus what resources could help. Students answered similar questions.

Regarding the mood in the school these days, junior Jack Jacobs said, "I think everyone’s doing a great job of being supportive, caring and listening when anyone needs to talk. Tonight was very good. It was nice to hear how everyone in the school system and School Board cares about us and have come together to help."

After the meeting, parents received crisis and suicide-prevention cards with information, plus phone numbers they and students can call for help. Parents also visited 15 information tables in the cafeteria to learn about several resources.

At the Community of Solutions table, co-founder Carol Davis said, "We started this organization last year after the third [Woodson] suicide. We average five teens and 20 adults per meeting."

The group helps teenagers deal with adversity and build resilience. It does so by listening to them and by establishing positive relationships within the community to focus on common strengths and abilities. For more information, see https://www.facebook.com/groups/CommunityofSolutions/.

At another table, four students explained Active Minds, a school organization that raises awareness of and de-stigmatizes mental illness. It encourages both hope and help. "We assess students for any risk or crisis, listen non-judgmentally and, when necessary, encourage them to get professional help," said senior Rachel Chalkley. "What we do helps foster a positive environment."

For example, they’ve held a yoga class to promote mindfulness and gave out hot chocolate to students returning from winter break. "It was to spread joy and help people have a better time at school," said senior Lindsay Laiks.

The group’s a year old and meets once or twice a month. "It gets people to be more comfortable discussing mental health," said Laiks. "It isn’t talked about the same way a broken arm is, but we want to show people it’s OK to do that."

She, too, was glad people came together as a community to exchange ideas. In school, she said, "Students are trying to show each other that every person’s cared about. There’s a sense of community. It’s definitely tough, but we’re coming together. Things may be hard in the moment, but we have to remember that life continues on – we just have to keep going."