Bulletin board reminds DHS community to be kind to each other

School launches kindness efforts following student’s suicide


Abigail Craig

Media specialist Christie Taylor-Riendeau, right, puts up a kindness bulletin board outside of Library Learning Commons with the help of sophomore Juhi Taj and junior Veronica Guzman, not pictured.

Abigail Craig, Staff Writer

DHS and other Connecticut schools have been on high alert and awareness of suicide prevention after the recent loss of a local student.

With mourning friends and family, the community has been working hard to spread awareness on mental health, depression, self-harm, and just being kind to one another.

Media specialist Christie Taylor-Riendeau and student aides in the library took on the task of promoting kindness here with a bulletin board and plans to form a student-led club. The former English teacher came up with the idea after reading news coverage of the suicide.

Most news outlets do not report suicides, but this one was done in public and gained even more media attention after the student announced her intentions on social media, and some of her followers responded with incredibly hurtful and callous posts.

Taylor-Riendeau initially asked staff and faculty to share a Google survey with students that asked them to share an act of kindness that they have recently experienced. After taking a look at the responses, Taylor-Riendeau said she was pleased.

The replies ranged from simple examples of kindness such as “holding the door open for someone” to more complex examples. However, even with the short and simple responses, Riendeau finds it “interesting to see what students look at as what kindness really is and how seriously people take it.”

Next to the library, the kindness bulletin board consists of inspirational quotes and sayings focusing on being kind to one another. For example, “Be someone’s sunshine when their sky is grey”, “How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it”, and “Kindness beautifies everything it covers”, are just a few quotes posted.

The board is similarly related to the popular Ben’s Bells Project which focuses on spreading acts of kindness around your community. The sweet sayings are written on the same colorful flower logo that is commonly related back to the organization.

Putting up the kindness bulletin board outside the Library Learning Commons has sprouted an idea and goal for Taylor-Riendeau within the upcoming school year. “I think we’re going to start a kindness club next year,” she said, adding that she already has students in mind to lead the effort.

It is not yet concrete how the kindness club will play out, but Taylor-Riendeau said she intends on it meeting twice a month. She said she wants the club to extend the kindness beyond the campus with activities such as packaging meals for the Dorothy Day Shelter and making dog toys for the animal shelter.

The club will have a goal of allowing students to gather to “do fun, small things” in hopes of making the Danbury community a happier and kinder place.

Juhi Taj was one student who helped Taylor-Riendeau put up the board. Taj said she was glad to help because such a bulletin board is more likely to be seen in an elementary school than a high school. Taj said she is grateful that Taylor-Riendeau wanted her help in putting the board up and “it’s nice that the board can make a change in someone’s mood or day.”

In addition to the kindness initiative, the school district has reminded parents, students and faculty and staff that confidential and professional resources are available to those under strain. On March 7, the school held its first of many forums focusing on adolescent mental health and raising awareness among students and family members on having those important conversations. The forum panel consisted of professionals on suicide prevention, mental and behavioral health, and school district officials.  

Karen London, a licensed clinical social worker in the School-Based Health Center across from the LCC, shares that she is always available to talk with students. In addition to the school’s social workers, the district also has Caitlin Lewis in position as crisis counselor.

London provides “treatment/therapy; assessment and referrals” to all students who may need it. London recommends programs and outlets for students who may be trying to seek help or are having suicidal thoughts such as: The One Word One Voice program and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

For students who may know someone who is dealing with mental health struggles, suicidal thoughts, or depression, and you are concerned for their safety and health, London would like to emphasize that letting an adult know you are concerned in never the wrong thing to do.

Making the decision to tell someone whether it may be a ”teacher, school clinician, School-Based Health Center staff, religious leader, parent, medical provider,” is always the right thing to do. “It is OK to ask people flat out how they feel and if they ever think of suicide,” says London.

Many kids tend to shy away from ever discussing suicide with friends due to the fear of possibly giving them ideas. However, London reassures that speaking on the subject “will not give them the idea to do it, and being able to say it out loud to someone else may be a great relief” for them after all.