For the past several months, 18-year-old Salem Hills High School student, Anna Nye has been volunteering her time mentoring special needs kids in her school with a focus on making sure that each has friends and feels a positive connection to other students. She is now taking her efforts to a more public level and is running for Miss Salem, adding suicide awareness to her platform. Both causes are deeply personal.
It was in April of 2018 when Anna lost her 19-year-old brother, Michael to suicide. According to Anna, her brother loved the great outdoors. including fishing and hunting, and overcame many challenges despite being on the autism spectrum.
“Michael had a heart of gold,”she said. “He was so willing to serve others and include them. Michael was diagnosed with an auditory processing disorder when he was younger, and he was on the autism spectrum. He had a hard time hearing people, and didn’t understand a lot of things. Despite this, he loved to talk to people, laugh, and go outside and play. He absolutely loved the outdoors, fishing, hunting, you name it. He was a walking mountain man at 6’1” and 230 pounds! He was a gentle giant who tried his hardest, despite the things he went through everyday. He is my hero, and I hope someday I can be just like him.”
Knowing that suicide could happen to someone like her brother, is what made Anna want to spread awareness.
“I believe society doesn’t talk about sensitive topics like suicide, enough,” she said. “Suicide is becoming a really big problem, and it’s not only affected me but so many others. I want people to know that. I want people to be aware of this rising issue. I know sharing my story and my brother’s story will help others feel like they can reach out, lift up their voices and share their stories too. I hope it will especially inspire those who are suffering from suicidal thoughts and mental health issues. My brother loved helping others, so that’s what I’m going to do, too.”
But it isn’t just increased suicide awareness that Anna wants to accomplish — the high school senior wants to educate people on how to help.
“I want to educate people on suicide,” she said.” When my brother took his life, I didn’t know what to do. My whole life I’d never once been taught what to look for in a person who was feeling suicidal. I didn’t know my brother was hurting, because he seemed perfectly fine. I want to inspire others to lift up their voices about mental health and suicide. That’s the only way we can fix this.”
In order to do this, Anna has chosen to do a Relay for Mental Health as her service project as a candidate for Miss Salem. This relay will take place on May 18 at Salem Hills High School. Participants will be able to run/walk around the track, there will be vendors that specialize in educating the public, inspirational speakers, and suicide prevention training put on by the QPR Institute.
“My goal with this is to present a fun atmosphere to get educated in, and earn money to help spread even more awareness throughout the community of Salem,” she said. “I have teamed up with different organizations to make this relay happen, and without them this wouldn’t be happening, so I’m very grateful for them and all their kind sacrifices.”
The Relay for Life will take place on May 18 at Salem Hills High School. For more information on how to register, go to the Salem Relay – Run for Mental Health event page on Facebook, or follow the race entry link on raceentry.com.