The Voice

Parents share story of suicide at senior assembly

The senior assembly raised awareness of teenage depression and suicide via the poignancy of guest speakers Wendy and Steven Sefcik.

photo via Wikimedia Commons under creative commons license

The senior assembly raised awareness of teenage depression and suicide via the poignancy of guest speakers Wendy and Steven Sefcik.

Jenny Chen, Staff writer

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On Wednesday Oct 10, while the sophomores and juniors were taking the PSATs, the seniors of HHS participated in several suicide prevention activities organized by the school.

The seniors arrived in homeroom at 7:30 a.m. and were given colored wristbands, which sorted them into four different groups. Each group made rounds across the school and explored the four stations that promote suicide awareness and a healthy lifestyle.

The upperclassmen were served breakfast in the commons as they conversed with their peers and guidance counselors about preventative measures and signs of depression. In the annex gym, the seniors gained new perspectives on the sources of strength, which includes friendship, family, mentors, community and spirituality. They also received advice on nutrition and fitness through interactive activities in the new gym. However, the most memorable event was the assembly in tribute to T.j. Sefcik.

Wendy Sefcik and her husband Steve settled in Towaco, N.J., after having three boys. T.J. and his brother grew up in a picture perfect family. At a young age, T.J. developed a passion for hockey and even made it on the varsity team as a freshman, playing alongside his older brother. Adventurous, driven, and caring, on the surface it seemed like Sefcik had it all. Behind the white picket fence, a teenager was lost and felt completely empty inside.

When Sefcik entered his teenage years, his parents began to notice unusual and violent behavior in their once loving son. The mood swings became more frequent and his aggression escalated, eventually leading Sefcik to abuse alcohol. Worried, Wendy and Steve  took their son to multiple therapists only to end up facing the same conclusion: it was just an episode, a case of “adolescence.” Not fully educated on mental illnesses, Sefcik’s parents did not pursue additional counseling.

On Dec. 1, 2010, after battling depression for almost a decade, Sefcik took his own life. “It touched me,” senior Daniella Prinicotta said. “He had a real life and grew up in a loving environment. But under all that, he wasn’t happy,  and no one knew.”

Wendy and Steve Sefcik now travel to schools across America, raising awareness of the importance of taking care of one’s mental health. “Our mission is to give hope to those who are struggling with depression,” Wendy Sefcik said. “And to prevent them from following down the same path.”

About 20 percent of all teens experience depression before they reach adulthood. Depression, often dismissed as typical teenage behavior, is a serious mental illness that should be met with professional help. If you are having suicidal thoughts, help is always available. Call 1-800-273-8255.

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Parents share story of suicide at senior assembly