Yellow Ribbon Day shines light for life
April 4, 2017
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As Cathedral Catholic High School students prepare to celebrate Yellow Ribbon Day today, CCHS guidance counselor Mr. Enrique Gonzalez reflects on his previous middle school teaching experiences that underscore the importance of building a relationship with Christ.
“At my previous school, we dealt with suicide,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “It’s hard to imagine an eighth grader ending [his or her] life, and I was the only counselor at that school for 500 kids. Through the entire process, had we been able to use our relationship with God to lean on each other, it would’ve been so much different than what we had to go through.”
Typically recognized for a week, Yellow Ribbon Day empowers individuals and raises awareness about suicide prevention by combining education and coping mechanisms with on-campus resources. Yellow Ribbon Day creates opportunities for spiritual, mental, and personal help.
While the CCHS campus gradually fills up with yellow decorations of balloons, ribbons, and footprints on building walls and hallways, the community recognizes a day greater than the vibrant color as the whole school raises awareness for mental wellness.
“There was yellow tape around everything,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “There were some things you couldn’t talk about when really we should be using our Christianity as our moral compass.”
Rather than placing yellow caution tape around the school and around sensitive topics, sending out yellow ribbons provides a sense of security to the student body, placing the Catholic faith at the center of all teaching.
The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program initially began in 1994 after a loss of a loved one to suicide, using the color yellow as a symbol of light and open arms when people feel trapped in the darkness.
“I consider the chapel as my main yellow balloon,” CCHS campus minister Maddie LiMandri ‘17 said. “There will be many yellow balloons on campus who are willing to offer immediate advice and a helping hand. But for me, I find the most peace in front in front of the tabernacle in God’s house.”
Despite sensitivity due to previous suicide occurrences, the assembly will address the topic as lovingly as possible, enlightening a sense of hope for all students from the classroom to the chapel.
“When schools don’t talk about suicide, the people who are experiencing suicidal ideas are at a greater risk,” CCHS psychology teacher Mr. Francis Caro said. “They feel like there’s nowhere for them to go, or that they’re isolated.
“But, they aren’t alone.”
According to the California Department of Education, 29 percent of California school districts have no counseling programs at all.
“One thing special about Cathedral is that our counselors are not only academic counselors, but they are there for emotional support,” Mr. Caro said. “Say confronting someone at school is not where they want to go, then there’s online therapy regulated by organizations they can go to. If there are students who think that there isn’t a place they can go on campus, we can make one.”
The Center for Collegiate Mental Health reports a nearly 8 percent increase in the number of students seeking mental health services. With the wide array of mental health aid on campus, students can find help.
“Before the academics, we want our students to be happy and healthy,” CCHS Dean of Counseling and Wellness Ms. Ashley Bascom said. “The more we talk about suicide and mental health, the less scary it becomes, and the more normal it becomes for people to seek help. Asking for help is not a bad thing.”
The CCHS Campus Ministry Retreat class, the organizers behind Tuesday’s assembly, will place footprints across campus walls, encouraging by-passers to write an uplifting message to a person in need and to inform them about place to find help.
“We want to make sure that our community truly is a community, a safe place where people can go and be themselves, and in being yourself, finding help wherever you need it,” Mr. Jeff Gramme, a CCHS campus ministry teacher, said.
The class intends to reach all students in any mental state through a heartfelt assembly, highlighting the importance of building a strong support system on the CCHS campus among peers and teachers.
“The first time I found myself talking to a teacher surprised me,” LiMandri said. “I stayed after class and found myself opening up to my teacher. His words of comfort and wisdom really lifted me up, and I knew that I could trust him with my problems.”
Spiritual direction from priests and open-door policies by teachers allow students the advantage of finding counsel for any personal struggles, but little do people know that the supportive layer at CCHS, the counseling department, helps with more than just switching classes and sending ACT scores.
“Scores and transcripts are important to support students academically, but we are here to guide students and build relationships with them,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “The counselors are not just support for students. We are support for everyone.”
In unity with all staff, faculty, and administration, the counseling department maintains a safe space for students with any complications at home or at school, keeping CCHS under “the canopy of student-centered support,” Mr. Gonzalez explained.
Informing the school on matters of suicide prevention appears startling at first, but with this education, students better understand the importance of raising awareness and building relationships everywhere they go, since most personal struggles often go unnoticed, Mr. Caro said.
“The more we are aware of things about ourselves, since psychology is about us, the more we are empowered,” Mr. Caro said. “To learn about suicide is further empowering that person. Education is more powerful than we actually think.”
Thanks to a strong, supportive Catholic education, this year’s CCHS Yellow Ribbon Day benefits every person in any walk of life: teachers and students, mentally healthy and mentally ill.
“Above and beyond any campus I have taught at, our relationship with Christ is ever apparent here all the time,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “That’s not to say that people with a very strong faith don’t have bad moments or bad days.
“We all have to carry a cross sometimes for someone or something.”