LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. — The Marlee Sutton Foundation was founded by Scott and Wendy Norwood to raise awareness and education of mental health, to help society move away from the stigma.
The Norwood family’s lives were changed on March 12, 2018, when their daughter, 13-year-old Marlee, died by suicide. “Our world was drastically changed and myself, I never want another family or parent to have to go through the hurt and the anguish that we have been through,” says Scott Norwood.
Wendy says it was started to honor the memory of Marlee and to help others struggling with mental health illnesses.
Scott says this day in age is different than when he was a teenager. “I can’t imagine what these kids today that they face. We give them a phone when they’re 12, 13 because all their friends have a phone and then they have these social media apps… and it’s just so much stress and I don’t think their minds, mentally are developed for this.”
Lawrence County Schools’ social worker Allee Kitchens says over the past few years, more students’ mental health seems to be affected by the excessive amount of technology. “I think social media has a lot to do with it,” says Kitchens. “I think there is just so many negative comments, negative thoughts, going around in the world. I think that has a lot to do with how our children think and why they’re going through the things they are.”
Wendy Norwood says she didn’t know what to do when her daughter came to her in search of help. “I did not know how to help her but now, looking back I have learned there were practical steps that we could’ve taken to get her the help that she needed.”
The Marlee Sutton Foundation urges parents to pay close attention to their children and if they do need help, to seek professional care from a mental health counselor.
Kitchens says a few signs to look out for are children isolating themselves and causing self-harm. She says if they’re acting noticeably different, it’s important to seek help.
“It’s okay not to be okay and it’s okay to seek help,” says Scott Norwood. “When I say seek help, true mental counseling.”
To provide help to its students, the Lawrence County school system recently announced the hiring of a full-time mental health counselor. The Marlee Sutton Foundation helped raise money to provide the position and their next goal is to provide a mental health counselor for each school within the Lawrence County school district.
The Norwoods say the new mental health counselor is already in training and should be within the schools by the end of October.