A young woman walks into her apartment and receives a text from a friend. It says, “Hey, I miss you. Hope you’re OK.” She then walks into the kitchen, grabs a pot, and places it on the stove. She paces around the home, waiting for the pot to boil over, before walking out to the balcony and stepping up onto the ledge.
She has a moment, steps down from the ledge, and then responds to the text, “I’m not OK.”
This was a scene from Golden Valley High School’s public service announcement that earned recognition and an award at a screening for local leaders at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station on Thursday. Saugus High School was also honored and awarded for a PSA its students made.
In attendance were Capt. Justin Diez, Bruce and Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Mayor Laurene Weste and Mike Kuhlman, superintendent of the William S. Hart Union High School District. The award ceremony and screening was held in conjunction with the city’s Mental Health Awareness Month.
Weste noted the importance of young people spreading messages about mental health and raising awareness of suicide and prevention measures.
“I am so incredibly proud that I was invited to be the one to acknowledge you,” said Weste. “You are definitely an amazing group of young people that are doing something that will save lives, will make differences, and will help our future, and we’re so very proud of you.”
Weste also said that messages like these are important now more than ever, noting the recent rise in suicides in the SCV.
According to Larry Schallert, assistant director for the mental health program at College of the Canyons, suicides in the SCV doubled from 15 in 2020 to 30 in 2021 and he said they’re on track to double again this year.
“It’s important now since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a tremendous impact on mental health everywhere and I’m sorry to say that it’ll take us a while to get back,” said Weste. “But this is going to help and I know that you’re making that difference.”
The students at Golden Valley High seemed very thankful to receive the recognition but, more importantly, that their message received recognition. For them, it was a difficult video to make since the topic hit so close to home.
“So this topic is very decisive in our community because this year we had one of our own Grizzlies… commit suicide,” said Octavio Guererro, one of the students who helped make Golden Valley’s PSA. “But [for] those of us at our high school… it felt important to shed light on this issue, and to bring awareness to it because it is so important. And we thought that it was the right thing and appropriate thing to do for the competition.”
“So many people around us are just silently suffering and I feel like making a video like this really spreads awareness because a lot of people are scared to speak up,” said Rosita Genero, another Golden Valley Student who worked on the video. “But if they can… know that people are around them are relating and going through the same thing, I think it can start opening up conversations for people and just bringing awareness in general.”
Brian Necessary, assistant principal at Golden High, echoed something Weste said during the event, that other young people are more willing to listen to their peers about a sensitive topic such as suicide, than they would if it came from the city, the Sheriff’s Department, or other official voices. But Guerrero said the voices of teenagers, of students, need to be heard by everyone.
“I believe that it’s important for the voices of students to be heard because I believe that oftentimes the voices of students, the voices of our youth are often overlooked,” said Guerrero. “And by creating this PSA, we shed light on students and the voices of students to bring greater attention to our voices and our needs, and how we can contribute to our own communities and help make our city a better place and make everyone feel more welcome and make things more inclusive.”
In its PSA, Saugus took a more lighthearted approach: It featured a mock “call this number now” commercial, comically asking people to call in if they needed assistance with their self-worth.
Both schools received $500 checks for their video production programs.
To watch Golden Valley’s PSA, visit bit.ly/3wyqHkw.