Chamblee Community Unites to Promote Suicide Awareness


Ellie Furr, Staff writer

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and Chamblee, like many other high schools today, has good reason to be interested in raising awareness for suicide.

Since two incidents of suicide that involved the Chamblee community occurred in December last year, the Chamblee administration, staff, and students have taken action. Dr. Norman Sauce III, principal of Chamblee, says that he and his administrative staff have done a lot of work in the past year.

“We feel like we’ve elevated the profile of this issue in the last year in a way that we think is the right thing to do,” said Sauce.

To address the mental health needs of the students at Chamblee, Sauce convened the Positive Mental Health Steering Committee in April 2016. The committee is comprised of administrators, staff, counselors, students, and mental health professionals. They will continue to meet this year to discuss the current mental needs of Chamblee students.

“It’s a forum for stakeholders and experts to come together and talk with our administrative team about what we can do better, what we can do more of, and what we can do less of to support the positive mental health of our students,” said Sauce.

The Chamblee Cares Organization, a non-profit organization that is raising money to support Chamblee, was also founded in April 2016 by Chamblee retiree Jean Coleman. Funds donated to the organization are used for the education and training of Chamblee educators to promote mental wellness. Chamblee Cares provides resources such as crisis hotlines to help people who are in emergencies and will also sponsor events such as parent workshops at Chamblee. These workshops will help the parents to be aware of issues going on in their children’s lives.

“We have mental health professionals who are going to be facilitating question and answer sessions and information sessions for parents to support their children at home– to look for warning signs and what to do for help,” said Sauce.

The students at Chamblee are also helping to raise awareness for the issue of suicide. The Chamblee Joy Committee, founded at the beginning of second semester 2016, is working to improve mental health throughout the school.

Senior Manav Mathews is the president of the Joy Committee and is excited for the upcoming year.

“This year, we have more students involved, which brings in more ideas and more ways to tackle the issue,” said Mathews. “I was also very pleased that five of the attendees of the first meeting were freshmen, so we have representation across all grade levels.”

Because the Joy Committee was completely new last year, it took some time to get it up and running. This year, the members of the committee have already presented some great suggestions that they wish to put into action this year, including a Krispy Kreme fundraiser for suicide awareness, posters around the school, and sessions that will allow students to talk about ways to cope with anxiety and stress.

“We want to encourage those who are suffering to get professional help and know that they are not alone and that others do care,” said Mathews.  

Freshman Tiffany Oh joined the Joy Committee and the Active Minds club this year in hopes of helping with the issue of suicide in the school and community. Oh, like many other teenagers, has struggled with depression, especially during eighth grade.

“It was just a time where I felt extremely lost and hopeless,” said Oh.

Oh eventually got professional help with the issue, initially from the school counselor. She knows that she is doing much better now than she was before.

“As I started talking talking about my problems, everything started to get so much better,” said Oh. “I stopped distancing myself from my friends and family, and my life has been full of so much joy and happiness.”

Raising awareness for suicide through the Joy Committee and Active Minds is a goal of Oh’s for this school year. She wants to prevent others from experiencing what she went through.

“I don’t want people to go down that road like I did,” said Oh.

The committees and organizations at Chamblee and in the community are teaming up to raise awareness for and prevent suicide. Students at Chamblee can help their efforts, even by helping a friend who is struggling with stress or anxiety. Mathews believes that everyone at Chamblee needs to keep this issue in the forefront of their minds and should work together to promote mental wellness.  
“Teenage suicide is a serious, real, and devastating problem, and one that has been historically swept under the rug,” said Mathews. “It is imperative that we bring this issue to light and face it head-on, and that we as students join efforts with faculty, staff, and parents and do all that we can to prevent these tragedies from ever occurring.”