In a letter sent to parents on March 1, the Derryfield Health & Wellness team shared information about an upcoming Community Meeting on the topic of mental health and suicide prevention.
As a community, we recognize the importance of the health and well-being of our students and have made this a priority in our school. This presentation comes as a piece of our L.E.A.D. (leadership, ethics, and development) programming. It is one of our many efforts to increase awareness of the mental health issues students face nationwide, while also providing guidance and hope for students or friends of students that may be struggling now or in the future. Research shows that talking openly about mental health and suicide is one of the strongest methods to raise awareness and reduce risk.
As is the custom at the start of each Derryfield Community Meeting, a member of the community sets the tone for the gathering before the audience takes a “Mindful Minute” to sit in reflection. At the meeting on March 8, Philanthropy Advisor Jenna Bee Wolf ’05 led the Mindful Minute:
Ups and downs are inherent to the human experience. External circumstances are constantly changing, and so are we. As we move through the fluctuations that make our life stories, two of the most powerful tools are Self Awareness and Self Acceptance. The words might be easy to say, but the concepts can be difficult to practice.
Director of Wellness Courtney Cheetham introduced Derryfield junior Anya Merriman to share her story. Merriman lost her older brother, Everett, to suicide. After describing her relationship with her brother and what she experienced both at home and at school after his death, Merriman concluded:
Coping with his death is something that I'm still working on even after almost four years, and figuring out how to talk about it with other people is as challenging now as it was when it first happened. My piece of advice to you is this–if you have a friend who has lost someone to suicide, I want you to know that it’s okay to ask them what they’re comfortable with. Let them know you can be a support system for them, or you can simply be someone they go to when they need a distraction.
Next, two of Everett Merriman’s former Derryfield classmates spoke. Rylan Morgan ’21, now a freshman at Carnegie Mellon University, offered his advice:
One thing that (these) people may do is give you advice; it is only natural that most people try to give their opinion to try to help. Some of the advice may work for you and some of it may not…so you should take it with a grain of salt…what is important in that situation is yourself, and you should do what you need to do to stay safe.
Frankie Brandt ’21 added his thoughts:
Keep tabs on people who you know are struggling; help them, talk with them, and make sure they know that you are unconditionally there for them when they need someone. You see, you can never fully understand how much simply making sure they know you are there will help them in their ongoing battle with mental health.
After concluding remarks by Courtney Cheetham, including the message that a follow-up email with a list of resources would be sent to all members of the Derryfield community, students Hailey Ramundo, Mackenzie McCarthy, Savannah Davis, Liam Taffe, and Sarah Murphy sang “You Will Be Found,” from the musical Dear Evan Hanson.