OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Several Blue Valley North High School students participated in World Mental Health Day, sharing what the day means to them.
Since 2013, Oct. 10 has been designated as a day dedicated to raising awareness about mental health.
With suicide as one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., this year's focus was suicide prevention.
Vik Nandigama is a student ambassador for the Zero Reasons Why Teen Council, which works to raise awareness about mental health and help prevent teen suicide. Nandigama said the fact that such a day exists means "we recognize that not everyone is perfect."
"People have things going on at all times, even if it doesn't seem like that when walking through the halls," Nandigama said.
Nandigama said he had his own battle with mental health last year when he missed a month of school due to his grandfather's death, and he had to travel to India.
"It was really overwhelming because you have extracurriculars, and I was running for a state officer position for DECA," Nandigama said.
He said getting involved with Zero Reasons Why helped him through it.
Caleb Nelson, Teen Council ambassador and Blue Valley North High School student, said he hopes to help prevent suicide by opening up the conversation on mental health.
"We're all going through the same stuff," Nelson said. "You're not alone in your struggles."
Nelson's passion for mental health stems from the loss of a friend to suicide. During his freshman year, Nelson looked up to upperclassman Chad Harrell. Nelson said Harrell's death had a lasting effect on many people, himself included.
"I want to do something, and I want to make sure that others are also doing something," Nelson said.
Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It also is the third leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24.
Nelson said he hopes people take away at least one lesson from today's message.
"It's OK to have that conversation about mental health," he said.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, there is help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You also can chat with someone online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org.