Start the conversation

Published 10:18 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For the second year, Suffolk Public Schools has partnered with the Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation to help continue the conversation about mental wellness in teens.

The foundation was founded in memory of Sarah Peterson, who was a student at Maury High School in Norfolk. She loved spending time with her friends and running on the track and cross country teams. She was an artist, loved ladybugs, participated in Girl Scouts and was active in her church.

But Sarah struggled with depression and lost her battle in January 2014, taking her own life three weeks after her 15th birthday.

Email newsletter signup

In 2018 alone, the foundation provided 140 separate programs in Hampton Roads, and 92 of those were in Suffolk. The programs were presented to more than 2,300 students, teachers and community members at no cost to the schools, according to the foundation’s website.

Teen suicide rates in the United States have been steadily increasing since 2006, and the program is meant to bring attention to depression and suicide and help teens and adults recognize the signs of depression in themselves or others.

The program will also help adults prepare for further discussion after Suffolk eighth-graders and sophomores discuss mental wellness in their health classes in the coming months. The program will challenge stereotypes and help teens understand more about depression.

Depression is a treatable disease, but unfortunately, the symptoms can be elusive and sometimes aren’t recognized until it’s too late. We applaud Suffolk Public Schools for taking this proactive approach and ensuring the conversation happens in its schools.

We encourage everyone, especially parents, grandparents and those who work with teens and young adults on a regular basis, to make the time to go to one of these sessions. This is one event you can’t afford to miss.