By: Keyonna Jones-Lindsay
Before they even begin to speak or crawl, children begin to hear the warnings to guard their safety. As times progress, many of the warnings remain the same, but there are those new ones that begin to surface as a reaction to our current events. School fire drills and emergency exit trainings have never been so imperative. Today brings threats against our children’s lives that aren’t as easily seen as the ones we’ve become accustomed to. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24, claiming approximately 4,600 lives each year.
Various factors can place a teen in risk or in contemplation of suicide, most commonly, depression, mental illness or a stressful life event or loss. The CDC explains many people aren’t comfortable with the topic of suicide, avoid it in open communication and “thus an important public health problem is left shrouded in secrecy, which limits the amount of information available to those working to prevent suicide.” Shaun Jai-Clark, a local entrepreneur and youth advocate, hasn’t let those ‘limits’ stop her. ‘We Rock The District’, one of her many brainchildren, uses a performing arts platform to educate the community on taboo topics that effect their quality of life.
Saturday, October 18th, the doors of Suitland High School’s Annabelle Ferguson Auditorium opened to an excited crowd of all ages, who filed into the rows and filled the seats. Shaun Jai stood center stage with a t-shirt sporting a large sized smiley face and ‘depression’ in bold letters underneath. “ We have to chose to live life,” she insisted. As she continued to speak she shared why this particular brainchild meant so much to her. “They took from me and I couldn’t understand why,” Shaun Jai said, referring to her abusers in her personal accounts of sexual abuse as a teen. She explained how the abuse left her angry, resentful and that she too contemplated suicide at a young age. “I wanted people to stop taking from me,” she said with a clinched fist. Shaun Jai’s reflections were followed by many similar accounts and testimonies of overcoming darkness from a mixed group of participants, young and old. In between the testimonies were performances from local artists: dancers, teen music groups, and spoken word artists.
‘We Rock the District’, a free community event, provides a stage for both entertainment and education. The event continues to serve as an avenue to encourage local artists to showcase their talents, gain performance experience, and build their confidence, all while educating the public on a vitally important topic. Saturday, March 28th the high school’s auditorium will be again, staged with vendors and tables covered in local suicide support literature, ready for another opportunity to inform the masses.
Whether or not it’s a favored topic of discussion, teen suicide is a “serious public health problem” that requires acknowledgment, awareness and action. For more information on how to get involved with The Shaun Jai Project and ‘We Rock the District’ visit their website and to see what you can expect on March 28th visit ‘We Rock the District’ YouTube channel.