Parents raise awareness after death of 2 Shawnee Mission Northwe - KCTV5 News

Parents raise awareness after death of 2 Shawnee Mission Northwest students

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There is help available for those who need it. (KCTV5) There is help available for those who need it. (KCTV5)
SHAWNEE, KS (KCTV) -

A group of parents and students at Shawnee Mission Northwest are going public to raise awareness of teen suicide and bring hope to a grieving community after they say two students at the high school took their own lives in the same week.

The school principal sent a letter to parents Wednesday with advice and resources, but a small group of parents and students are taking it a step further to send a message to all the kids as they arrive at school.

Parents held signs with phrases of support and positivity to let students know they are important and loved and have an entire community of support behind them as they entered school on Thursday.

"Shawnee is a great community," said Nichole Herring, a parent at the school. "I've lived here almost all my life. We want people to know we are here for each other."

“I think that when you get into that deep, dark place you forget that. And we need to remind everybody,” Shawnee Mission Northwest parent Charity Becker said.

"It wasn’t even a question. I was going to be here today," said Rebecca Fegers, a parent at SMNW.

On Tuesday, parents received word of a student who took his own life on Monday. On Wednesday, they received a note that a second student, who harmed him or herself on Tuesday, had died.

The district has not officially called the deaths suicides but has not contested the statements of parents and students describing them that way.

Parents also visited the school to spread a message of hope on Wednesday afternoon as classes ended.

"We just wanted to show our support the kids and the staff and our community," Herring said. "Unfortunately this seems to be becoming quite a bit of an issue."

A helpful piece of what the principal wrote to parents:

“Everyone handles stress and grief in a different way. Some may have difficulty concentrating and experience feelings of anger and denial. Some may withdraw, while others need to talk. We want you to be aware of what's going on at school so you can be extra attentive to how your child is handling this news.”

Parents met at the school at 7:20 a.m. on Thursday.

The message of the rally is to let students know they’re not alone.

"No matter what you’re feeling, this is true for everybody. There is a light that everybody has. And, everybody is amazing and loved and important," Becker said.

Several students also felt compelled to do something for their classmates.

"I made these ribbons last night and they’re the colors of suicide awareness so I was going to hand them out to all the students here to help raise awareness for this," junior Kaitlyn Moore said.

Sierra Flores, a freshman at the school, shared an emotional post through Facebook

‘You should always have someone, she wrote. "Everyone needs somebody. If you don’t have someone, I’m your someone who cares about you."

Flores says the tragedies have been too much to bear alone and on Wednesday had to leave school early. That’s when she wrote her post.

"I saw one of my teachers cry for the first time today," Flores wrote. "The people who ended their lives, or sadly tried to, didn’t think anybody cared about them. Our whole school was upset. I’ve never seen so many people cry. There was extra help today but we needed our friends too."

Students from local elementary schools also wrote letters of support to the grieving students.

Some students say it’s good to see how the community is supporting them.

Parents say it’s important for students to express themselves, whether it be through rallies or social media posts. They say everyone’s feelings matter.

Additional resource officers will be in the building to help students and staff cope with the losses.

"It’s devastating that this happened and that they are all here for us, and that they brought counselors in from other schools so that we could have all the support that we need," Shawnee Mission Northwest sophomore Catherine Becker said. "And that we are the Northwest family. We are all here for each other."

The next leader of Kansas, who is focused on supporting educators and students, wanted the Shawnee Mission community to know he is standing with them in this time of need. 

“You know, those families deserve our respect and our support," Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer said. "Those kids, they can come together and what they need is support. Maybe sometimes it’s counseling, but it’s really activities; how to be together, how to make something positive out of it.” 

There is help available for those who need it.

The suicide prevention lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK OR 1-800-273-8255.

It's free and confidential emotional support that is manned 24-7 every day of the year.

You can also visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline here. 

More information: 

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