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Student designed suicide awareness billboard now up in Wausau

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WAOW) -- With the end of the school year in sight one area teacher teamed up with her students to remind them mental health is important all year round.

For most kids, summer is a care free time of year. One they look forward to all school year long.

But when it comes to mental health, it's also a time of year that can cause many kids to feel vulnerable and alone.

"Some students have a good support system during the summer." Explains Patty Zemke, a health teacher at Horace Mann and John Muir.

"But there are a lot of other students who might be isolated because they don't live in town. They don't have transportation to be with their friends or do fun activities."

With that in mind, Zemke teamed up with her students for a little competition, with a big purpose.

The competition resulted in a billboard, promoting mental health and the 9-8-8 helpline.

"Students were afraid to call 9-1-1 or didn't know when they should call 9-1-1 or what it would be like to call 9-8-8. It's a recording and you have to wait on the line for someone to answer so that's more of a place to call if you just want to talk about something." Says Zemke.

The winning design was made by Everly Jirgl, a six grader at Horace Mann Middle School.

Jirgl shared why the billboard means so much to her; "Some people can get help, but some people can't. Driving by the billboard is a great way to help them and make their day better. It's important to me because I don't want to see people like suffering."

Along with the billboard, which will be up for at least 30 days, schools in the district are handing out three different designs of stickers to students in their final report cards in hopes of reminding them there are people to talk to, and help available, even during summer months.

Zemke says she would love to see a lot of cars driving around with Everly's stickers on them.

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