By: Jesse Davis
THE VILLAGE REPORTER
An empathy walk put on as part of a suicide prevention program recently brought Delta Middle School students and staff as well as the general public to “walk a mile in the shoes” of students in the district facing difficult challenges.
The event, sponsored by students and advisors of the school’s Sources of Strength program, included a string of signs outside the school showcasing those challenges relayed by the students as well as notes of encouragement for the writers and recommendations for pathways to help.
Among the challenges were references to divorce, family infighting, bullying by other students, and loss of loved ones.
In addition to the signs featuring students’ challenges, other signs gave more concrete recommendations, like identifying two adults the person can go to for support, finding a mentor who has overcome similar experiences, and taking care of their physical health.
“While planning this campaign, it has truly been an eye opening look at the challenges facing some of our students,” District Nurse Laura Brown said.
“We encourage everyone in the district to take the time to reflect back and “walk a mile” in these young people’s shoes.”
Approximately 175 middle school students submitted their challenges for the displays and roughly 850 middle and high school students made the walk, reading and reflecting on the messages. The general public was invited to come see the display after school hours.
“Activities like this can open up tough conversations and heart wrenching stories regarding our students but it also serves a purpose to create empathy and kindness that leaves our building and outstretches to local communities,” Pike-Delta-York Schools Director of Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment and Communication Barbie Shepherd said.
“Impactful steps like these can decrease bullying, assist with conflict resolution and promote the overall theme to just be kind – you never know what someone else might be going through.”
According to its website, the national Sources of Strength organization is “A best practice youth mental health promotion and suicide prevention program designed to harness the power of peer social networks to create healthy norms and culture, ultimately preventing suicide, violence, bullying, and substance misuse.”
More information about the organization and its efforts can be found online at www.sourcesofstrength.org.
Jesse can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org