MASSILLON, Ohio– At least a dozen people gathered outside Perry High School in Stark County to speak out following a recent wave of suicides.
Three students at the school have ended their own lives this year. Perry Local Schools responded to the latest death by bringing in counselors to meet with nearly all of the 1,600 high school students.
The group planned a demonstration Wednesday afternoon at Perry High School. They hope to bring awareness about bullying and suicide. They held signs with messages like, “Never give in. Never back down.”
Joining the demonstrators was the father of 16-year-old Kyliegh Crawford. She took her own life on Oct. 31. Johnathan Forney said Kyliegh was bubbly and fun, but hard-headed at times, like a lot of teenagers.
“It makes you question what you could have done, it destroys you, it hurts,” Forney said. “At the same time, it makes me think about staying strong for her little brother.”
Forney was at the demonstration to advocate for suicide prevention and encourage teens to talk about their feelings. He also had a message to parents.
“Take any sign seriously, to be soft. They’re teenagers, you’re going to treat them like adults sometimes, you’re going to get angry and you’re going to be fed. But you got to hold on,” Forney said, while fighting back tears.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 14, and second leading cause of death among those ages 15 to 24, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-273-TALK.