Helping Teens Survive Depression

A Johnstown teenager survived life-threatening depression, and wants to help other teens who face similar struggles.

Cassidy Klein created a local chapter of Project Semicolon, the nation-wide suicide prevention campaign raising awareness about depression and encouraging those struggling with it to reach out for help. The semicolon has arisen as a symbol of hope and solidarity among mental health advocates. “A semicolon is used when an author could have ended a sentence, but chose not to,” says Cassidy. “The author is you. The semicolon is your life. It pretty much symbolizes a bump in the road and the message is that there is help out there.”

Cassidy’s personal battle with depression and her efforts to connect other teens to mental health resources have been well covered by local media. (Tribune-Democrat article, WTAJ-TV story)

Cassidy and her fellow high school seniors, along with their senior adviser, Eric Pfeil, created a short video aimed at ending the stigma surrounding depression. That video had thousands of views, inspiring a wave of support, which students want to keep going with a fundraiser. The group is now selling semicolon t-shirts, with all proceeds going toward the Yellow Ribbon suicide prevention campaign, education, and other related efforts in schools and surrounding communities. To manage those contributions, they started the Laurel Highlands Semicolon Project Fund at the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

The local Semicolon Project has support from the Cambria County Coroner’s office and Conemaugh Health System. According to mental health advocates, over the past few years of PA Youth Survey data, depression has been identified as early as 6th grade and peaks in high school at 40% of students recognizing symptoms in themselves. 20% of students surveyed admit to contemplating suicide, and more than a few schools in our area have lost students to suicide.

The semicolon t-shirt will have a semicolon with the statement “your life isn’t over!” on the front. A yellow ribbon and suicide hotline number will be on the back. The hope is that someone struggling may see the shirt, know support is out there, call the number, and reach out for help. This project has the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of high school students before the holidays when depression in teens often increases.

Click here to order your t-shirt.

A number of highs schools in Cambria and Somerset counties have already signed on to support the sale. Organizers hope every high school in the two counties will participate.

Here’s how your school or organization can do that:

  • Each school is responsible for promoting the sale of the t-shirt. This can be done by guidance or student organizations or as a junior/senior project. This can be done through announcements or flyers.
  • Orders are taken online through THIS LINK.
  • Participating school districts will collect payments from individuals when when the t-shirts are distributed.
  • Payment from each school district to the Semicolon Project is due 1 week after t-shirt delivery.
  • All proceeds go into the Laurel Highlands Semicolon Project Fund.

Individuals may also use the link to order t-shirts on their own.

If your group would like to participate, please email msinger@conemaugh.org

If you would like to support this fund with a direct donation, you can do that here.

If you’re struggling with depression or any other mental illness, please get help. You can start here. You’re not alone.

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