Little Chute High School students launch mental health wellness festival

The three sophomores that came up with the festival idea Friday, September 21, 2018. (WLUK/Pafoua Yang)

LITTLE CHUTE (WLUK) -- What started out as a simple school project, turned into something much more.

It included hundreds of students in the stands, about 30 community organizations, and a live band.

"We had to read a book and then make presentation about a mental health wellness issue, my group chose suicide," sophomore Keaton Duffeck explained.

Duffeck and two others, say they invited 'Prevent Suicide Fox Cities' to give a presentation in class, and that's where things took off.

"It was impact so we wanted to do something more for the school," said Duffeck.

The organization helped the students on a 3 month mission to create the mental health wellness festival. It's the first of its kind. Members of Prevent Suicide Fox Cities hope it spreads to other districts and schools.

Students also made a Wall of Wellness, it honors special people they consider a source of strength.

"We're going to talk about sources of strength, we're going to talk about who are the trusted adults in their world and so instead of them shouldering responsibility when they worry about a friend who's in trouble, okay how do they pass that off to a responsible adult," explained Kevin Pratt, the school counselor.

Experts say suicide rates among youth is higher in the Fox Cities than the national rate.

"We’re seeing more students attempt suicide so, we really need to wrap our arms around the student and hear their voices," said Cindy Reffke, Prevent Suicide Fox Cities chairwoman.

Reffke said some signs of suicide include isolation and giving away prized possessions.

"There is hope, there is resiliency," Reffke said. "Obstacles happen in life, but we have adults that love them and care for them and want them to succeed."

Duffeck added that it's important for peers to look out for one another as well.

"Suicide is preventable and that’s the message we want to spread to everyone," said Duffeck.

FOX 11 is teaming up with experts in the field to reduce the number of suicides in Northeast Wisconsin.

If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, FOX 11 has a number of resources just click here.

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