A community is mourning the recent loss of two Skyline High School students to fentanyl overdoses.
Mental health and its associated illnesses is a prevalent issue among high school students, Skyline senior Ethan Kinnan said. It’s something that needs to be talked about more, he said.
He and two other Skyline seniors, Siena Merrin and Blake Abrahamsen, came together to raise awareness about mental health and drug and alcohol use. They formed the Filled in Hearts Club.
“It started as a way to raise awareness for suicide,” Kinnan said.
Both Kinnan and Merrin have been directly affected by close family and friends dying by suicide.
“We also just had a student try to commit suicide a few weeks ago,” Merrin said. “Fortunately, someone intervened before it was too late.”
Throughout the first few months of school, Kinnan said the school’s environment has become one filled with stress, hopelessness, grief and loss.
“To make matters worse, our school does very little to combat these problems by avoiding the causes and releasing official statements that keep students and teachers from knowing the true stories,” Kinnan said.
The Filled in Hearts club launched in mid-September. Though its original focus was around suicide, the founders expanded the focus to suicide, drugs and other mental illnesses. The main objective is to raise awareness, spur conversations and erase negative stigmas around talking about drugs, suicide and mental health illnesses.
Inspired by an elementary school act, Merrin suggested the idea of drawing a filled-in heart on the palm to symbolize support for those experiencing issues related to drugs, suicide and other mental health illnesses.
“Filled in Hearts Club encourages students to draw black hearts on the palms of their hands which can be used as a conversation starter to address these issues that need to be discussed,” Merrin said.
The club has received more attention following the recent death of Lucas Beirer on Sept. 30.
“We’ve gotten such positive support from other students and parents,” Abrahamsen said. “We all care about each other.”
As students, they believe they have a responsibility to do their part in addressing the issue.
“[Students] are part of the issue,” Kinnan said. “Students have to be part of the solution. It’s not the district’s fault…the administration can do as much as it can to help educate and help students, but students have the most resources and knowledge of who’s using [drugs and alcohol].”
Merrin said she encourages students to report when they see other students using drugs and alcohol or are considering suicide.
“If you see something, say something,” she said. “If you don’t report, it can come down to literally life or death.”
The Filled in Hearts Club is more than just raising awareness for the issues. A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to create fundraisers and community events for the club’s cause.
“We are in the process of planning a multitude of local fundraisers and community events to raise awareness and make a difference since we refuse to sit back and watch everyone let more tragedies occur,” Kinnan said.
The community events will be used to unite people and provide education and support to those struggling with drugs, alcohol and mental health illnesses.
To learn more about the club, go online to the GoFundMe campaign, FilledInHeartsClub (https://www.gofundme.com/f/filledinheartsclub), or go online to the Instagram page, filledinheartsclub (https://www.instagram.com/filledinheartsclub/).