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LETTERS

Peer-to-peer model opens vital mental health dialogue among students

A Liberty University softball player wears a purple ribbon in her hair during a game against Tennessee at Liberty Softball Stadium in Lynchburg, Va., on April 27, to honor James Madison University sophomore catcher Lauren Bernett, who died by suicide.Kendall Warner/Associated Press

Re “Recent suicides concerning” (Sports, May 8): Columnist Tara Sullivan describes well the deep distress and shock survivors feel in the face of these losses in the collegiate sports world. Unfortunately, suicide has become far too prevalent not only across college campuses but also in middle and high schools. We are witnessing an explosion of anxiety and depression in this population. The need for access to mental health services is skyrocketing, yet resources are scarce.

The good news is that, in our work in schools, we have found that a peer-to-peer model is a highly effective and realistic way for students to destigmatize mental health issues, support each other, and stay connected to assistance. Our trained peer mentors share their own mental health challenges and open up the conversation with students. They then work to establish vital peer leadership teams that keep the dialogue around mental health going.

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The alarm has sounded. Cities, towns, and school systems must commit greater resources to helping their young people who are struggling with mental health concerns. The prevalence of suicide is a public health crisis that tears at the fabric of our communities, and we need to employ and support every effective means of addressing it.

Ellen Dalton

Founder and CEO

Jake Cavanaugh

Executive director

The NAN Project

Lexington

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.