Cave City parents work to break silence on suicide

CAVE CITY, AR (KAIT) – Two students from Cave City High School committed suicide this school year, sparking a local movement to prevent another tragedy from occurring.

Gina Lovins and LaVonna Davis recently decided to form PASS, or Parents Against Silence of Suicide. The two mothers organize a group meeting once a week, hoping to break the stigma surrounding depression, suicide and other issues facing teens.

"We talk about things that we can do to help our kids, to raise awareness about suicide and depression," Lovins said. "We talk to our kids about sex, drugs and everything else, but we don't talk to them about suicide and depression."

Lovins' son Patrick lost his best friend, Corey Young, in February after the high school senior took his own life. Patrick, however, has decided to focus on the positive, saying the best way to overcome the grief is not to ignore it.

"He always made me laugh and have a good day at school," he said about Young. "One thing that always got me, he had some red hair and a red goatee. He always wore these yellow boots that stood out. He's the only one that ever had them."

Young's death came months after Brylee Verser committed suicide before the current school year began. She is remembered by Elizabeth McQuay, a ninth grader, as an active athlete.

"Brylee, she was an awesome softball player," McQuay noted. "She loved softball. She loved to dance too."

These memories seem to hang in the minds of students at Cave City High School, but both deaths have caused more to open up and share their feelings.

"You can just tell people want change," said Whitney Rogers, a junior. "It's not only that they want change, but they're starting to take action to create change, which is a good thing."

Rogers admits struggling with her own depression, but now she and her friends talk more freely about their problems, assuring each other they're not alone.

"This isn't just about our school, and it's not just about Arkansas. It's not just about the United States. This is the whole entire world," Rogers explained. "Everybody suffers from something at one point in time. Everyone gets in a depressed mood every now and then, and it's okay. It's alright. You can talk to people about it. It's not bad."

The school has adopted a more proactive approach about these issues as well. Marc Walling, the high school principal, is working to integrate suicide intervention into the curriculum. He says he is happy to have PASS, the parent-volunteer group,assisting with that.

A benefit walk will be held on April 28 at 10 a.m. at the Cave City High Walking Track. All proceeds will help the school buy new educational materials and send staff to training about detecting early signs of depression and coping with suicide.

To learn more about the upcoming benefit, contact Gina Lovins at 870-384-1035 or LaVonna Davis at 870-283-1154.

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