In early April, a group of seniors met with Dean of Students Cathie Connors and me to say that they wanted to take action to help their school community heal from the deaths by suicide of two of their Waynflete peers. They had already organized an Upper School assembly in which they thanked the faculty for their dedication to making students feel safe and valued and then led the student body in singing Lean on Me.
One idea the seniors proposed was to use the occasion of the West End 5K race to raise awareness about mental health and money for NAMI Maine, an organization that has provided the School invaluable support and guidance throughout the year. They urged students to turn out for the race in order to help meet a $500 challenge gift and made yellow origami butterflies for student contestants to wear. Members of the senior class also donated $2 each and asked other students to do the same. I offered to donate $1 for each student who volunteered to help with the race or who beat me in it. The total gift for NAMI Maine from the race is still being calculated.
Another idea the students proposed was to use the interscholastic athletic network to reach out to other schools affected by suicide to organize a play day devoted to raising awareness about mental health and smashing the stigma of mental illness. Senior leaders took complete charge of organizing and advertising the entire event, which took place last Sunday. They even arranged for media coverage, so the details are documented in the stories linked below.
I would only add that I don’t remember ever being more grateful to be a part of the Waynflete community than I was on Sunday. The blend of joy and grief was palpable. It was a truly remarkable day.