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Green Hope PTSA launches walk to raise awareness of youth suicide

Green Hope High School's PTSA is planning a walk to raise awareness of teen suicide after the loss of two students last year.

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Sarah Lindenfeld Hall

Not many people have experienced the kind of loss that Victoria Bennis has endured in her 20 years: the loss of two people to suicide.

Bennis' brother John, a sophomore at Green Hope High School in Cary, committed suicide last November. And her ex-boyfriend took his life two years ago.

"Most people don’t go through a suicide in their entire lifetime," said Bennis, a 2007 graduate of Green Hope and a senior at N.C. State University. "Me, I’ve been through two in the last two years. And that’s not OK at all."

That's why Bennis is involved in the Green Hope High PTSA's Save a Life Walk, scheduled for this Saturday. The event aims to raise awareness about suicide and its warning signs, says Liza Weidle, co-chairman of the school PTSA's health and safety committee. Green Hope lost two students to suicide last year, Weidle says.

"I want people of all ages to know what the warning signs are," said Weidle, whose own life has been touched by suicide. "And to let them know that when they are feeling that high level of pain that ... the main thing is to make sure people know they aren’t alone."

The event at Green Hope, 2500 Carpenter Upchurch Rd. in Cary, is scheduled during the 15th Annual Yellow Ribbon Suicide Awareness and Prevention Week. According to the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, it's a myth that it's risky to talk to kids about suicide. In fact, it could save a life.

"Talking is the first step in trying to prevent it," the program's website says. "It is the act which may break through the isolation that a suicidal person feels."

The event Saturday includes the 5K walk, along with a pancake breakfast and viewings of the 22-minute movie "A Cry for Help." You can register online through Friday or just show up on Saturday morning. On-site registration begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday. A program begins at 8:30 a.m. with the walk starting at 9 a.m. The pancake breakfast starts at 9:30 a.m. And there are some door prizes. Registration is $20 and includes the breakfast and movie. Donations are accepted.

Plans are for the walk to become an annual one. And the PTSA is working on other programs to help parents identify the warning signs before it's too late. Weidle said she hopes to include parents at other area high schools especially after hearing about the suicides of students at other schools.  Bennis looks forward to telling her own story with the hopes that her perspective as a young adult just a few years out of high school will resonate with teens.

"What we're trying to do is prevent more lives lost," Weidle said.

(And special thanks to Carolyn Zahnow, author of Save the Teens, for telling me about the walk. She offers some good tips and details some warning signs on her website).

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