Karen Piana, a rep­re­sen­tative from The Jason Foun­dation, speaks out against teen suicide at a Light­house event on Tuesday. (Photo: Madeline Barry / Hillsdale Col­legian)

Phillips Audi­torium was nearly full on Tuesday night for a dis­cussion on youth suicide. Most audience members were ath­letes — espe­cially from the football team — and they all wore the same purple shirts. On the front, the shirt read “#WeWontBe­Silent.” The back: “For the awareness and pre­vention of youth suicide.”

The event was hosted by Light­house, the mental health club on campus, the Charger Ath­letics program, the Hillsdale County Suicide Pre­vention Coalition, and fea­tured a speaker from the Jason Foun­dation. The subject, youth suicide, is a silent epi­demic, and the event was planned to raise awareness.

“If one life is saved, this is worth doing,” senior Light­house Pres­ident Sarah Milback said.

The event opened with remarks from head football coach Keith Otterbein, who is coaching his 15th season for the Chargers. For Otterbein, the topic is close to his heart. In 2005, a freshman member of the football team, Adam Emery, com­mitted suicide.

“It was right across the street in Simpson Hall,” Otterbein said. This anecdote was appro­pri­ately haunting, making the cause hit the audience at home in a new way.

The whole football team attended Emery’s funeral, but Otterbein said he wanted to do more.

“We didn’t want to just talk the talk. We wanted to walk the walk,” Otterbein said. That’s why, for the last 10 years, the Hillsdale football team has donated the pro­ceeds of its youth camp to the Jason Foun­dation. Last spring, Otterbein received the Grant Teaff Breaking the Silence award for his team’s con­tri­bution.

The Jason Foun­dation works to increase awareness and educate people on signs of pos­sible suicide attempts. The foun­dation is named after founder Clark Flatt’s son, Jason, who com­mitted suicide.

Karen Piana spoke on behalf of the Jason Foun­dation on Tuesday. Piana works at a hos­pital that helps those bat­tling sui­cidal thoughts.

“They don’t want to die,” Piana insisted. “They just have so much pain and they don’t know how to deal with it.”

In her remarks, Piana offered stag­gering sta­tistics about depression, sui­cidal thoughts, and attempted and com­pleted sui­cides among young people. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth from ages 12 to 18. According to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one out of every six stu­dents seri­ously con­siders suicide every year. Around 100 stu­dents commit suicide every week, and in 80 percent of these cases, there were demon­strable warning signs that could have led to the pre­vention of the suicide.

Brock Lutz, Director of Health Ser­vices, said that stu­dents who struggle with sui­cidal thoughts or depression should take advantage of the four coun­sellors at Hillsdale who will speak with them. Further, if a friend con­fides these kind of thoughts, stu­dents should ask blunt ques­tions.

“Don’t be afraid to be really clear,” Lutz said, echoing a theme in Piana’s speech. “Be direct. It’s best to ask head-on what’s really hap­pening.”

Piana’s ultimate piece of advice: Tell someone. Get help. Don’t be silent.