By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER — “You’ll be helping to save lives. You’ll be walking to save lives,” Grace Rumph, a freshman at Red Bank Regional High School, told her schoolmates on Wednesday.
Grace, who lives in Red Bank, encouraged her fellow students on Wednesday, May 9, to participate in the Out of The Darkness walk, intended to raise money for suicide prevention programs.
About 30 students from the school’s Teen Outreach Program (TOP) organized the two-day series of walks at the high school, 101 Ridge Road, and raised more than $1,800 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
An additional 345 students joined the walk.
The outreach effort grew out of a program initiated by the high school’s School Based Youth Service Program, known as The Source, a 12-year program that provides and facilitates social services and counseling for students and their families.
As part of the outreach program, students are required to participate in a community service component, said Suzanne Keller, coordinator for The Source.
Grace, said she wanted to take part in the program because she feels that “not only in Monmouth County, but across the country, suicide is becoming more and more prevalent.”
Grace, and fellow freshman, Adam Canterbury, Oceanport, also a TOP member, both told of losing friends to suicide. Adam’s friend, who was a little older, had taken his own life after being rejected by a girl.
“The main thing is to approach someone about it,” if you suspect someone is in danger, Adam said. “You want to approach a friend, a family member, and see if you can help.”
“I think the important thing is to get them to talk,” Grace added.
About 36,500 people commit suicide and approximately 1 million attempt suicide in the U.S. every year, Grace said.
“I think our peers are aware of the subject,” Adam said, “but are afraid of it.”
“There is so much someone can do,” Grace said, “even saying, ‘Hey, I’m here for you,’ can mean so much for them.”
Allison Blake, commissioner of the state’s Department of Children and Families, offered her support for the students efforts Wednesday morning and noted that it was National Children’s Mental Health Week.
Annette LaBarbera, facilitator for the Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, which partnered with The Source to sponsor TOP, praised the student event. “They have been really proactive on this. I’m really proud of them,” she said.