I’m 16 years old, and three months ago my best friend committed suicide. Since then there have been several more teenage suicides in Cumberland County alone. Yet as a society, we remain strangely quiet on the topic of mental health.

I find myself in fear of who’s next and which school will next lose a committed member of its community.

Because of the stigma that goes along with mental illness, there is deep isolation for those who are struggling. The silent epidemic of mental illness will not go away by being ignored. We should be talking about it and actively reaching out to help all the individuals struggling with mental illness.

Michelle Obama recently stated: “It is really time to flip the script on mental health. … It’s time to tell everyone who’s dealing with a mental health issue that they’re not alone, and that getting support and treatment isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.”

Teenmentalhealth.org estimates that one in five American adolescents struggle with mental illness, and yet finding a poster or helpline number in a school is rare.

I recently visited many of the high schools in Cumberland County to see whether posters or helpline numbers for mental illness were prominently displayed. The one high school that did have help numbers prominently posted had recently suffered a suicide. How many deaths will we go through until help and support become a natural reaction?

Hope and help exist, but the stigma burying this silent epidemic from view creates further isolation for those who are struggling and need help.

The stigma that goes along with mental health needs to be abolished. As a start, all schools should place help numbers in easily accessible places.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 800-273-8255.

Julia Hansen

Falmouth