Johnstown teen starts suicide prevention campaign

Johnstown, Cambria County, Pa. - Cassidy Klein has struggled with depression for years. Her battle has made her stronger. Now, the Greater Johnstown High School senior wants to help other students find their strength.

"I ended up trying to commit suicide a couple of times. I'm just really happy I didn't succeed," said Klein.

Klein is raising awareness around a national suicide prevention program: Project Semicolon.

"A semicolon is used when an author could have ended a sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the semicolon is your life. It pretty much symbolizes a bump in the road and the message is that there is help out there," Klein said.

Klein is working with her school, Conemaugh Hospital employees and the coroner's office to start a t-shirt campaign throughout schools in Cambria County.

They will sell t-shirts for $10 each to students and staff members at schools around the county. Money raised will benefit Yellow Ribbon, an in-school suicide prevention training program.

"This can be one of the most stressful times in our life, that's why anxiety and depression are such big problems for kids our age," Klein said.

The t-shirt design will include a semicolon and the phone number for a national suicide prevention lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). 

Klein said she hopes the t-shirt campaign will start a conversation around depression and suicide and let kids know where to turn for help.

"Even if the schools designate one day a week or a couple of days a month and everyone wears that shirt, it's going to be a constant reminder of what that number is and where they can find help," said Marlene Singer, Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center's Community Health Coordinator.

Klein, Singer and Johnstown school officials will send out letters to other schools in the county asking if they would like to buy t-shirts and participate in the suicide prevention campaign by November.

"There's a negative stigma around depression and we're trying to end that," Klein said.

Klein said she wants to encourage other students to pause, but never give up.

"It's a bad day, not a bad life," said Klein.


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