By Teri Vance
National statistics show that someone dies by suicide every 12 minutes in the United States. Those numbers were personalized at Carson High School on Wednesday.
“We want to help students realize there is help, and there is a better life out there,” said Scarlett Baeza, 17. “This is a real thing.”
Baeza organized the Drop Dead Day as part of her senior project to raise awareness about suicide.
Throughout the day, every 12 minutes one student would stand up, reveal a purple T-shirt that read “Every 12 minutes someone dies by suicide,” and leave class. Once they left, teachers would read their obituaries.
“It really got to me,” said Molly Otto, 18, who had to write her own obit to participate in the activity. “I never thought that day would come for me. So many people would be heartbroken, and I wouldn’t get to live the life I’ve been so looking forward to.”
Baeza also created a 10-minute video addressing students who may be struggling. The video centers around Carson High School graduate Jordan Woodward, who died by suicide Aug. 27, 2015.
She’s hoping it will be used as a tool in health classes for years to come. It features interviews with his sisters, friends, classmates and coach.
“It’s very personal and more relatable to the students of this school,” Baeza said. “They’re going to watch this and go, ‘There’s Jace Keema, a football star’ or Zach Sever, he’s a freshman this year so they’ll all still know him.”
Keema, 18, said he was honored to be included in the video.
“If it saves lives, of course,” he said. “Suicide prevention needs to be in everyone’s heads — it matters what you’re feeling.”
Students were encouraged to seek help from counseling staff at the high school or from trusted teachers and coaches.
Baeza said depression and mental illness are often misunderstood, especially among young people and certain cultures.
“I’m Latina, and in our culture we just don’t acknowledge it,” she said. “If you can’t see it, it’s not there. Rub some dirt on it, and you’ll be fine.”
Ron Swirczek, Carson City School Board member and suicide survivor, spoke with students and watched the presentation.
“It’s a raw video,” he said. “It’s real. It tells what it is.”
Brooklyn Maw, Carson High School graduate and youth program coordinator at Partnership Carson City, served as a mentor to Baeza.
“I wish they had this when I was in school,” Maw said. “It could have been beneficial to those who were struggling and maybe prevented my few friends who have committed suicide in the last four years.”
Students were also given purple ribbons to distribute throughout the community. They were encouraged to take a photo of it and post it on social media with the hashtag #CHSpreventsuicide.
“We want to take the message outside of these walls,” Baeza said.