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Thursday, January 20, 2022

One in five people will experience mental illness while in middle or high school.

That’s what mental health advocate Terrie Mullin told a group of six students Monday during an event hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and Alachua County Sheriff’s Office.

The event, called Ending The Silence, took place at the sheriff’s office, located at 2621 SE Hawthorne Road, and aimed to teach students that mental illnesses don’t devalue the people who have them, Mullin said.

“The most important thing is that you talk to someone,” she said. “It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.”

Following the deaths of students from Gainesville high schools in the past year, students learned about symptoms and suicide prevention at ACSO on Monday night, she said.

Robert Dentmond, a 16-year- old Gainesville High School sophomore, was killed by police March 20 after calling 911 to say he was planning to kill himself and had a gun, according to Alligator archives.

Diamond Ward, a 16-year-old Buchholz High School student, took her own life in January. Her friends said they thought bullying may have led to her suicide, according to archives.

Students were encouraged to be attentive and report any suicide warning signs from classmates to prevent further tragedy from striking Alachua County Public Schools.

Sheriff Sadie Darnell talked about her experience with mental illness, both personally and professionally. Her mother attempted suicide three times, and after seeking help, lived to be 92 years old, she said.

“It’s important to reach out,” she said. “We care about you, and we want you to be able to live as old as my mom.”

Contact Molly Vossler at mvossler@alligator.org and follow her on Twitter at @molly_vossler 

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