Woodland High School students develop action plans to address teen suicide and depression

Students researched their topics and developed potential preventative measures that could be taken by schools such as having counselors reach out to students and their families

Woodland High School students examined activism by researching and developing potential action plans to address teen suicide, depression, and other critical issues facing high school students. Students researched their topics and developed potential preventative measures that could be taken by schools such as having counselors reach out to students and their families; referring students in need to professionals; and having friends reach out to each other if they notice potential risk factors.

Students discussed how challenging expectations from family can present undue stress leading to psychological conditions in teens. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Students discussed how challenging expectations from family can present undue stress leading to psychological conditions in teens. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Students also presented research on how family expectations can create undue pressure and stress on teens to perform. While positive expectations can result in students maintaining grades, developing a good work ethic, and respecting others, negative expectations can cause teens to feel insecure, potentially develop anxiety or have other psychological impacts. Among suggestions for potential actions, students suggested preparing materials packets for parents to make them aware of the different pressures facing teens.

Rayleah Trice, a 2021 graduate, volunteered at YouthLine, a suicide hotline for teens, after seeing reports about mental health issues affecting teens during the quarantine in 2020. “I thought I could use my own experiences to help support people,” she said. “I think schools could really help students by reaching out and teaching them about their own mental health to make sure students are healthy.”

In addition to handling shifts on the hotline, Trice also visits schools following a teen suicide to speak with kids who need to talk. “It’s a vital need for teens to realize they’re not alone when it comes to stress, pressure, or having feelings of depression,” she said. “If a student is suffering from mental illness, it can be challenging for them to pay attention during class which can further exacerbate the conditions they’re already experiencing.”

Students gave presentations on teen depression as well as suggestions for how to address it. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Students gave presentations on teen depression as well as suggestions for how to address it. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

Aaron Blackwelder, an English Language Arts teacher at Woodland High School, came up with the idea for the new assignment as an extension of an assignment his students had last year after reading Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet where students researched why Romeo and Juliet committed suicide. 

“Rather than just reviewing the events that led to the couple’s suicide, I thought we should add solutions that could have positive effects on our high school community,” he explained. “This year, we also involved administrators and counselors who attended to listen to the issues and suggestions presented by our students.”

Blackwelder encourages his students to learn about issues affecting both their own population as well as the greater community as well become more engaged with the concepts. “A lot of students have shared their projects with kids at other schools,” he said. “The impact of their learning has become more widespread and could potentially improve how many schools address these issues.”

Learn more about YouthLine

YouthLine is a teen-to-teen youth crisis and support service provided by Lines for Life, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing substance abuse and suicide. YouthLine operates a national helpline providing crisis support and referrals via call, text, and chat. To learn more, visit YouthLine’s website at www.oregonyouthline.org

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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