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Loudoun County high school walk highlights problem of teen suicide

WASHINGTON — A Loudoun County high school is working to draw attention to the devastating problem of teen suicide with a walk and an assembly on the school’s grounds in Purcellville, Va.

During Wednesday’s event, called We’re All Human, Woodgrove High School students will leave the building and take part in a 1.5-mile walk.

“There will be signs and posters that were made by the students with statistics about teen depression and suicide,” school counselor Barbara Bell explains.

“This year alone in Loudoun County it’s just been a major issue,” she says. “There have been four students who have taken their lives this school year.”

Following the walk, Woodgrove will hold a school assembly in the gym focused on preventing suicide and explaining to young people who suffer from depression that they are not alone.

“Our message is hope,” adds Aidan Bergel, a senior who helped organize the event. “It’s raising attention to the issue of suicide, rather than [letting] it just be an issue that passes by unattended or unnoticed.”

Bergel has a close friend whose brother, Ryan Bartel, took his own life last school year. He was a senior at Woodgrove, just a few months shy of his 18th birthday.

The problem of teen suicide has grown in Northern Virginia in recent years.  In Fairfax County, student suicides jumped in early 2013 to 6.9 per 100,000, higher than the national average of 4.4.

Last year, the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia — a coalition that includes members from the Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax-Falls Church, Loudoun and Prince William communities – was established to raise awareness and share resources to prevent suicide.

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