A Washington father is trying to make a difference after learning about the high suicide rates affecting his community.
Colby Wallace, father to a young girl in Seattle, recently learned some shocking statistics regarding suicide rates in his state. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Washington for people aged 10-24 years old. It is the third leading cause of death nationally. As a father to a young girl, what’s most alarming to Colby Wallace is the rising suicide rates for girls aged 10-14. While boys have traditionally been more likely to commit suicide, the gap is narrowing every year. Suicide as a whole was on the decline until 2007 when rates spiked again.
According to a recent study, More girls are dying by hanging or suffocation than ever before, while boys are more likely to use guns. With girls turning to more lethal methods, it is more likely that girls will be successful in completed suicide. Researchers turn most of the blame to girls’ increased use of social media, where girls are victims of cyberbullying.
This inspired Wallace to change how students think of themselves. He started putting signs along the sidewalks near his daughter’s elementary school in Seattle in May, which is coincidentally mental health awareness month.
The signs feature many different words of encouragement, like “Don’t give up,” “Your mistakes do not define you,” and “You matter.”
Wallace got the signs from a nonprofit called “Don’t Give Up” which started as a family anonymously posting signs around Oregon neighborhoods two years ago. Once the Oregon community saw what the family had done, the phone was ringing off the hook for signs in their own yards. The movement quickly grew into a company, known worldwide for their message. They also offer wristbands, stickers, and encouragement cards with similar messages.
After Wallace had heard stories of people who had committed suicide, Wallace said his goal is to start conversations about mental health. “As a parent, you feel really helpless when you hear these stories, that this is happening. This is happening a lot, but nobody wants to talk about it,” he said.
With the signs, he hopes to send a message to kids and adults alike that you don’t have to go through life alone. “Don’t give up. Everybody is struggling. You don’t know what people are going through,” he said.
Wallace has even recruited some of the students at the elementary school to put up signs. Some are as young as six years old.
Some of Wallace’s signs have been vandalized, but the damage hasn’t dampened the community’s spirits. In fact, several other parents are excited by this movement and have started posting signs in their own yards. Deejay Alook, a father to a student at the elementary school, is supportive of Wallace. “What’s wrong with having a positive message in general right? I think we need more of it,” he said.As more and more signs pop up around his neighborhood, Wallace is hopeful that the message will spread around his community and lift people up. “I don’t know where this thing ends, but for now, for today, this is what we are going to do. Don’t give up,” he said.
Featured Image by Josh Pepper on Unsplash