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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 8, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 41
Local students participate in nationwide pro-LGBT chalk project
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Local students participate in nationwide pro-LGBT chalk project

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On October 4, students in Ballard High School's Students Lives Always Matter (SLAM) participated in the 'You Are Loved Chalk Project,' a national effort to show support in student suicide prevention.

SLAM club president Sydney Jarol, 18, said that a collective of 10 students gathered at 7 a.m. to draw messages of hope and support with chalk on the school sidewalk. 'We heard all the stories about the recent LGBT students that ended their lives,' she told SGN. 'We are working to help prevent that from happening in Seattle. We participated in the You Are Loved Chalk Project to show our LGBT students that we are a welcoming community, we have love, and that we care about them.'

Jarol says that the atmosphere at Ballard High School is 'fairly nice' for students. 'There is no real active bullying against LGBT students that I am aware of,' she said. 'There isn't a lot of student to student aggression.'

She did admit that every now and then, someone will write something homophobic on a school poster or say 'That's so Gay,' and that may have a negative affect on an LGBT student.

'We have to continue to educate people and let them know that anti-Gay bullying is an issue,' she said. 'If we do that, then some students won't make negative comments that are hurtful.'

According to Paul Barry, a mental health counselor at the Ballard Teen Health Center, SLAM was founded five years ago after the suicide of a popular and much-loved Ballard student. Her friends turned their grief into strength and a desire to help other students who were struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. 'Her friends left the school some years ago, but a dedicated and committed group of students comes forward every year to maintain and grow the club's activities,' said Barry. 'SLAM is an official Ballard High School club, and I am their faculty advisor. The group focuses on a range of social marketing strategies to combat teen suicide, based on a model developed by the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, our sponsors.'

SLAM club members do presentations in all the freshman classes, train teachers and parents, and put on a week of educational activities called Beavers Against Depression And Student Suicide (BADASS). Ballard High School's mascot is a beaver.

Barry says that schools should influence the climate at high school to educate students that bullying and harassment can take an extremely high toll on the kids being picked on. 'Encouraging an environment where all students are valued and respected will help with the emotional health of all students,' he said.

SLAM teaches a three-part process for students who are worried about a friend that is depressed: Show you care, ask if they are suicidal, and if they are - get help.

'It's clear that teens who are thinking about killing themselves are most likely to tell a peer about their thoughts,' he said. 'We teach kids at Ballard that this is too great a problem for them to deal with on their own, so they need to get a trusted adult to help them.'

As for adults, Barry said, 'The most important thing we can do is be available for teens and take their concerns seriously when they come to you for help. Think about what teens in your life you can reach out to and spend time with. Teens don't always want to chat, but spending time together and having fun is a great way to build a relationship and offer them adult friendship that is outside the intensity of parental relationships. It's too wrenching for most people to even contemplate that a lovely young person might be considering killing themselves, but so many teens feel isolated, sad, and alone inside that they see suicides as their only option.'

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