ST. CHARLES COUNTY, MO – A group of Fort Zumwalt School District alumni created a Facebook group to shine light on the number of past and present students who have committed suicide or died from an overdose.
“None of us want to go to anymore funerals.”
After a recent suicide in the district, a few alumni decided to take action. They started creating a list of people who have lost their lives in a Facebook Group called FZSD Find the Light.
We came up with 79 names between 2002 and today and that’s an incomplete list,” said Alexis Bingham, Fort Zumwalt alumni, and one of the group founders. “Having that number just really solidified how many people we’ve lost and it kind of drove all of us to say, ‘okay now we know what the problem is, let’s figure out where it’s coming from and figure out some solutions to it. So, we started this Facebook group and people are sharing really heartbreaking stories of bullying, of abuse, people were apologizing in the group to people they bullied.”
The group grew to more than 3,200 parents, teachers, current and former students in just weeks. The group gave the district a list of problems they’ve noticed and solutions to help solve the problems that will ideally lead to not having any more names on the list of people who have lost their lives.
The group wants to have more crisis counselors in schools, create a mental health curriculum that is taught starting in elementary schools, and easier access to resources available to students.
“We’re just tired of seeing the same patterns repeating so we just want to make sure that the resources we have are allocated correctly because academics aren’t going to go anywhere if mental health isn’t sound as well,” said Bingham. “I don’t feel that the district is doing enough to help with mental health, but I want to say they have been very helpful and very receptive to what we’re saying and they don’t want to see names on the list any more than we do.”
She said when she was a student, she wasn’t aware of the resources available to her and believes many others don’t either.
“The school district actually does have great resources for helping people find affordable counseling and the anti-bullying, but it’s hard to find if they aren’t aware of it,” she said. “One of the easiest solutions we can think of is if that material goes out every semester, hopefully at the beginning of the semester, parents, students, everyone gets that material and knows where the resources are.”
Fort Zumwalt Superintendent Bernard DuBray said the district has a lot of resources available but is appreciative that the group is interested in working with the district.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with them and hear what they have to say,” he said. However, he thinks this problem is not unique to Fort Zumwalt School District.
“These individuals who formed shine the light have shown light on the whole problem, and probably if they went to just about any big school district, they would find similar type statistics,” he said.
The group started a GoFundMe to hold a vigil on September 12 at Fort Zumwalt Park to remember the people they have lost to suicide or overdoses.
Bingham said any money that is not used to put on the vigil will be used to give Fort Zumwalt School District as a grant to assist with mental help program costs.
The group has a goal to expand their efforts and reach other schools in the St. Louis region.