‘They need our love’: FCA hosts suicide awareness event for students

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, November 3, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
By Danielle Morin
Elizabethton Star
Students from across Carter County banded together Wednesday to spread suicide awareness.
Members of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) from Unaka High School, Cloudland High School, Happy Valley High School, and Hampton High School met at Unaka’s sports field for a special Fields of Faith gathering. They were joined by Carter County school counselors and representatives from Creekside Behavioral Health and Frontier Behavioral Health. Pastor of Harmony Freewill Baptist Church and Valley Forge Elementary School’s principal, Brandon Young; FCA Area Director, Steve McAuley; and Hampton High School’s baseball coach, Nicholas Perkins, were among some of the event leaders in attendance.
Jenny Jones, event coordinator, described the event as “a night of awareness and worship together.” Fields of Faith, a student-led organization where Christian students can pray and fellowship with one another, usually meets at respective schools’ athletic fields. Perkins explained that what set this Fields of Faith night apart was that students from the four different Carter County schools were coming together in what he described as a “collaborative event.”
Jones kicked off the event by recognizing those individuals who contributed to the success of the assembly and introducing Unaka High School student, Marcus Shoemaker, to lead the group in prayer. Following prayer, Young, accompanied by wife Dara, led attendees in worship before addressing the crowd in a brief sermon. “Everybody’s going through something,” Young said, “and they need our encouragement, they need our love, and they need our support. They don’t need our comments and our putdowns.”
Continuing his message, Young said, “We’ve all been affected by suicide at some point in our life.” He explained his own experience, saying, “[Suicide] is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to go through as a pastor,” while remembering a church member lost to suicide earlier this year. Young closed by challenging the teens in attendance, saying, “We’re all going through something and sometimes we just need someone to listen. I want to encourage you to listen to your friends and be kind above all things.”
Following Young’s opening speech, Perkins took the floor to read scripture and give a brief word of encouragement. He then introduced Young’s son, Grayson, a junior at Hampton High School, to share testimony. Grayson assured students that they were not alone, citing his own struggles with depression and anxiety. “In sharing your feelings with others and reaching out in times of need,” he said, “you will find that people fight your same battle.” He went on to encourage the fellow student body, “If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or depression, please reach out to a friend or friends you can trust.” He closed, reminding listeners, “You can never truly see what’s going on behind somebody’s smile.”
Following his son’s moving speech, Pastor Young introduced the evening’s keynote speaker, Jody Jenkins. Jenkins, a pastor himself and author of Rainbows in the Dark, a compelling account of his personal struggles with deep depression and suicidal thoughts, opened his speech by saying, “I know what it means to contemplate suicide. I know what it feels like to be in a dark hole you can’t get out of.” Jenkins stressed the importance of speaking out about mental health and suicide, especially in the church, saying, “Depression is real, and it can hit anybody.”
The ceremony concluded with attendees huddling together in prayer over the lives of those afflicted with depression. After which, participants walked a couple laps on Unaka’s track field in unison to remember those lost to suicide. Students were encouraged to speak to behavioral health representatives or school counselors in attendance if anyone was dealing with troubling feelings, thoughts, or emotions.
The event had significant impacts on students in attendance, with one Hampton High School student, Faye Carrico, saying, “For my pastor to go through [depression], and open up about it, it makes me want to open up myself.”
Jones says she intends to make the suicide walk an annual event and wants to continue to find ways to help youth in the community with mental illness struggles they may be facing. If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988 or visit 988lifeline.org.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox