Students at Waccamaw High School work to put more emphasis on mental health

Grand Strand

Following two student suicides in two months, the most recent just last week, students and staff at Waccamaw High School in Pawleys Island are working to put more emphasis on mental health. 

Junior Kayleigh Rhodes is working with the school on starting a new club that focuses on student outreach and making personal connections with people.

She wants to call it “Love Not Law” and says that means instead of people judging and pointing fingers when tragedies occur they should rather focus on making themselves and resources available to those in need. 

“We’re not gonna judge you, condemn you, but instead we’re gonna make ourselves available to you and love you through this,” she said. 

In a letter to the principal, Kayleigh asks, “Why are we waiting for another friend to die before we step up to make a change?”

She’s been working with her dad, a pastor at Pawleys Island Community Church, on ways the club can be proactive instead of reactive. 

“We need something that’s going to be longterm,” David Rhodes said. “When the intensity of the emotion begins to subside, something that will find that child who right now is not in crisis but who will be in crisis.”

A petition started on calls for more psychiatrists and therapists available at the school, access to these counselors during the day, and allowing students to take days off due to mental health. 

“I think there’s a lot of pressure, and I think that that can accumulate,” Kayleigh said. 

When that happens, today’s students often turn to social media as an outlet and a sense of comfort. 

Kayleigh is urging her classmates to turn to each other instead of their screens. 

“Being able to see somebody in need somebody that we see is struggling and being able to step up and say we love you and we don’t want you to be hurting like this.”

Students participated in a walkout on Monday to raise awareness.  School leaders say six students attempted or committed suicide in separate incidents.

The Georgetown County School District says it has added more counselors and a suicide hotline.

On Thursday, the National Alliance on Mental Illness will host an “Ending the Silence” presentation at 7 p.m. at the Pawleys Island Community Church.

The presentation is designed strictly for parents and guardians of middle or high school aged youth, according to the Georgetown County School District.

The principal of Waccamaw High School’s also wrote a letter published to the school’s website


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