In light of the recent teen suicides in the DC area, students all over the city posted a heart emoji on their Snapchat story to stand in solidarity with the friends and family of the lost loved ones in our community. Although not everyone that posted the heart knew these students personally, the sudden loss affected students in many different ways and sparked conversations about mental health, a topic that is widely ignored in schools.
This lack of the previous conversation prompted the start of the new school club LOVE (Listen Observe Value Educate), whose goal is to have candid conversations about mental health and to create a support system for our peers. Junior Frankie Galli noted, “After hearing about recent suicides and thinking about ‘what comes next,’ we decided that GDS needed a club like LOVE. We are aware that many GDS students suffer from mental health issues and that a large portion of our community does not have a solid base of knowledge about these issues. LOVE’s goal is to bridge that gap.”
Sophomore Ian Partman used social media to vocalize his strong opinions on the matter. He said, “Having continuous conversations with our friends is the best way to get people who don’t feel closely related to issues involving mental health to care. Social media artificializes a lot of problems, so, in order to have valid conversations about mental health, they have to be continuous. Someone committing suicide or somebody telling you that they are struggling with self-harm shouldn’t be what begins the conversation. We need to be having prior conversations before it gets to that stage.”
In an all-school meeting, the administration briefly mentioned the recent tragedy, but many students felt inclined to continue the unfinished conversation. Other schools in the area refrained from mentioning the recent events in school settings at all in fear that the traumatic experience might influence other vulnerable teens feeling suicidal. While copycat suicides are not very common, it is confirmed by the CDC that suicide clusters are most commonly seen in teenagers.
The Snapchat posts created controversy when some argued that it trivialized the life of those lost by reducing it to an emoji and that some people posted it for the wrong reasons including “competitive grieving.” However, friends and family appreciated the support of students from schools all over Washington, DC and Montgomery County.
Sophomore Sasha Freedman hopes people use this experience in our community to continue the conversation about mental health awareness and make changes in the way they treat people. On the topic of the red heart controversy, she added, “I don’t think the hearts themselves were trying to trivialize the lives of those lost. They were a kind gesture but I think we can all do more than just the heart. Sure, post the heart, but educate yourself and others after.”
By Amelia Myre ’20