De Pere students raise awareness of teen suicide

DE PERE- De Pere High School students and staff took a moment of silence at Friday night’s basketball game to remember a student who died this week.

Students and school administrators say his death has brought into focus the ongoing need for suicide awareness.

De Pere Senior Kenny Wertel’s friends say his upbeat personality makes his suicide on Sunday all the more shocking.

As the news spread around school, his friends thought they’d find comfort in each other.

“We got together in the counseling office and just talked about it all day,” said Ian Delabroux.

“The students with their action how they wanted to grieve for their friend and come together in support of each other in their grief it’s an amazing sight to see. But it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking,” said principal Annette Deuman.

“We’re also using it as a thing for suicide prevention,” said Logan Devroy.

Tee shirts were made: Kenny Strong.

A hashtag on Twitter was created, so friends could share their feelings and get the word out about the Friday night game, where fans from both De Pere and Preble High Schools came together to wear yellow in awareness.

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for young people in the United States. But staff at De Pere High School hope this awareness can help towards prevention.

“We look at how do we teach kids that suicide is a very permanent solution to temporary problems, really. So how do we give them coping strategies?” said Deuman.

Students say they’re learning to be more willing to open up about their feelings.

“If I’m feeling depressed, it’ll help me reach out to others. Seeing now how people all cared, I would take it that they all care,” said Devroy.

In a time of sadness when many young people might withdraw, these teens are banding together.

Showing that together they are strong, and that no one has to be alone.

Wertel’s visitation and funeral will be tomorrow afternoon in Green Bay.

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