SPEAK student ambassadors help raise awareness about suicide prevention in schools

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - WHNT NEWS 19 is Taking Action to bring attention to suicide. It doesn't matter if the stories are difficult to tell, we believe it's an important message to share with everyone. It's part of our partnership with the Huntsville Hospital Foundation's SPEAK Initiative. SPEAK stands for Suicide, Prevention, Empowerment, Awareness and Knowledge.

Now, some high school students are joining the effort and participating in a video challenge to raise awareness about this important subject and other factors related to it. WHNT NEWS 19 met up with one of the SPEAK student ambassadors at New Century Technology High School, who's working hard to make her school's project stand out.

"I've been bullied for my height," says freshman Ana Cruz.

"I've been bullied because of my sudden weight gain," says Quinton Hurt, a 9th grader.

"In elementary school, I was bullied because I had been raised a Jehovah's Witness," shares junior Ford Flowers.

Bullying can have serious consequences. Highlighting the severity and solutions are part of SPEAK ambassador and New Century Technology High School junior Sierra Arbogast's vision.

"I want to help people who have gone through similar things as me because it's not fair to have to go to school and get bullied," explains Arbogast.

"What were you bullied for and how did you overcome it?" asks Arbogast during one of the interviews with students at her school. Arbogast reached out to teachers, who helped connect her with students willing to share their experiences on camera.

"I witnessed people being bullied for their weight and the things they wear," describes Adam Clayton, who's in the 9th grade.

"I was bullied for being myself and having fun," says 10th grade student Jayden Gautreaux. "I turned away and looked down and just kept walking. I knew they were just being mean."

For those who will eventually see the video, Arbogast hopes they'll also see that they're not alone.

"It's okay to express yourself and there are people out there who aren't judgmental," says Arbogast. "I just want people to be able to be themselves."

Of course, she wants to win the contest too. There are a total of 48 SPEAK student ambassadors, representing 15 different high schools in the Huntsville, Madison city and Madison County communities.

Another goal of the videos students are putting together is to help get the word out about the SPEAK North Alabama suicide prevention app.  You can download it for free on Apple or Android devices. This resource is readily available to you anytime. The app is for anyone who is contemplating suicide or anyone that wants to help someone at risk in a responsible way. It outlines warning signs, who to call and guides you on what to say and what not to say to a suicidal person. Watch a video to see how the app works.

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