KHS students offered a grim reminder of consequences
October 26, 2017
The day started off like any other. Then following the normal announcements, Kerry Ferguson, Director of Community Relations and Foundation at Kimball Health Services, announced the statistics of suicide and distracted driving.
"The leading killer of teenagers is automobile crashes. 133 teenagers die every week in traffic crashes," Ferguson said. "Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers and for every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Half of these suicides among young people are related to bullying. Bully victims are between two and nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims."
Approximately 70 percent of the 2016 sophomore class reported being the victim of bullying and 31 percent of them had considered attempting suicide. Those numbers are shocking and that is why KPC got involved.
The percentage students who had contemplated suicide as a result of bullying was devastating to think about.
The Grim Reaper walked into classrooms each class period to reap one or two students, totaling one student every 18 minutes. The significance...every 18 minutes someone dies as a result of suicide.
As students were selected by the Grim Reaper, Jamie Soper, Director of Special Services at Kimball High School explained to classmates that student's absence was either by automobile accident or as a result of suicide.
Those students were not allowed to interact with anyone for the remainder of the day. A somber portrayal of a day without a classmate. For many, this was a very hard situation.
Alandalynn Prather tells NBC Nebraska, "It felt so real.They can't look at you, they can't talk to you, but you can still feel their presence. As if they actually did die."
Students returned to class in white face paint, white sunglasses and a white Grim Reaper Project shirt. Along with this ghost-like look, they were handed a red placard that revealed the more detailed circumstances of their death.
One sign read, 'My parents are going through a divorce. It seems like it's my fault so I got rid of the problem.' Another, 'My girlfriend texted me asking if I was almost home. I looked for 2 seconds and before I knew it...I was going through the windshield.' One placard included both scenarios, 'I was texting and driving. I didn't see the children crossing the street... I swear it was an accident. I couldn't handle the guilt anymore.'
These three were just a few of 20 different scenarios, 10 were circumstances of suicide and the other 10 were car crashes.
Following the 'reaping' Dr. James Broomfield of Kimball Health Services addressed the student body. He recalled that three fellow high school graduates took their own life as did three college classmates had committed suicide within five years of graduation.
Following Broomfield's address, Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Art Frerichs shared videos and addressed the dangers of distracted driving and even mentioned suicide.
Trooper Frerichs said one of the worst things he must do is go to someone's house to tell parents that their child will not be making it home that night. He added that he knew fellow officers who had committed suicide because of that very duty.
"I feel this activity was very successful in raising awareness on impaired driving and teen suicide," Soper said. "A special thank you to Kimball Health Services and Art Frerichs with the Nebraska State Patrol."
Soper said that to date all feedback regarding the project was positive. She encourages any student who is experiencing bullying to report the behavior to the school principal.
"When bullying is reported we look at every case individually. It is not tolerated at KPS. We continue to educate students on the effects of bullying," Soper said. "KPC is taking a positive approach to stress reduction and coping skills this year. We are going to focus on helping students deal with stressors and finding a place to belong. We are just getting started on this journey, but I'm very excited to see what effects this has on students! We have great community involvement in KPC."If you would like to be involved, please call Jamie Soper at 235-2188 or email [email protected]
"When you arise in the morning. Think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love - then make the day count." -Steve Maraboli.