Officials at Waccamaw High are taking steps to put more focus on mental health following the second student suicide this year.
The latest incident happened last week when a teenager took his own life. On Monday, students and families joined together at the school. Counselors, clergy and trained staff were also on hand, and officials said resources will be available through the summer as well as next school year.
In April, another Waccamaw High student killed himself.
In a letter posted to the school's website, Principal Adam George urged students and people to take advantage of mental health services.
"It is really important if you or your child is not feeling well in any way to reach out for help,” George wrote. “Children who are already vulnerable may be at greater risk due to exposure to the suicide of a peer. Suicide should not be an option.”
In an email Wednesday to the Georgetown Times, George said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families that have been directly affected by these tragedies. The entire school has been altered by the recent deaths. The support that we have been given by our school district, local agencies and the community has been tremendous.”
George said students had the opportunity to attend an "open discussion" held in the school's auditorium.
"I have met with several students about continuing the awareness and conversations that have been started. We will be meeting again in the coming weeks to discuss in more detail the plans moving forward," George said.
Students at the school are also calling for action. In an email to George, a student said she and others have discussed starting a club.
"I am sick of wondering when the next funeral for a friend will be," the student wrote. The email was posted to Facebook.
“What we need is a love revolution, not a revolution to point fingers at each other putting the blame on others for these tragedies,” the student's post said.
A petition started on change.org calls for more psychiatrists and therapists available within the school, access to these counselors during any time of the day, assemblies made to raise awareness about mental health, support groups and allowing students to take days off due to mental health.
“We cannot stand to let the mental health of students slip our minds. Mental health comes first, not homework, not studying, not a class,” the petition says.
As of Tuesday, the petition had over 1,200 signatures.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness will have an "Ending the Silence" presentation on Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at Pawleys Island Community Church.
Audiences will learn about the signs and symptoms of mental health conditions, how to recognize the early warning signs and the importance of acknowledging those warning signs.
In his email, George said, “According to NAMI, one out of five youth aged 13-18 (21.4 percent) experience mental illness. We are going to continue to talk, discuss, and hopefully end the silence. Students working together are one of the best ways for a school to become great.”