Students Walk to Curb Suicide Countywide

Morning classes at Woodgrove High School were canceled so that the entire student body could go on a walk.

It was an unseasonably cold and breezy morning, but few complained. Their thoughts and conversations were on Ryan, and Will, and Christian, and other young people from the Loudoun community who had lost their lives in suicide-related incidents in recent years.

The walk was organized by the school’s We’re All Human Committee in partnership with The Ryan Bartel Foundation, which was founded by the parents of the Woodgrove senior who took his life in 2014. The inaugural We’re All Human walk was designed to not only ensure the school’s 1,500 students knew they were not alone in their struggles, but to spread that hopeful message to people throughout Loudoun.

Students posted hopeful messages for the We're All Human Walk Wednesday. (Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now)
Students posted hopeful messages for the We’re All Human Walk Wednesday. (Danielle Nadler/Loudoun Now)

Woodgrove senior Aiden Bergel said the western Loudoun community has been hit especially hard by tragedies prompted by mental illness, naming four teens who were killed in recent years. “Maybe if there was not a stigma on mental illness, we would have not lost these contributors to society’s future,” he said. “We’re here to talk about this.”

Close to 2,000 people joined the 1-mile walk on the campus, and then crowded into the school’s gym for an assembly. Ryan Bartel’s brother, Jordan, performed a song accompanied by the Woodgrove choir dedicated to his brother. Students shared their film that told the stories of several of their classmates’ struggles with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

Before the film got rolling—technical difficulties delayed it by 10 minutes—Suzie Bartel grabbed the mic to fill the time with her family’s personal story, a story that brought many in the audience to tears. Her son, Ryan, had Asperger’s syndrome and was the target of bullying until high school, when he found a group of friends he could relate to. Still, he dipped in and out of depression and kept a lot of his frustrations over school and social challenges to himself. He took his own life Oct. 15, 2014.

After Ryan’s death, Bartel and her husband felt they needed to do something to stop other families from experiencing a similar tragedy. They started a foundation and created a scholarship for graduating seniors, but wanted to do more to impact hurting teens. “We knew what we wanted to do, but didn’t know how to get there,” she said.

She contacted Woodgrove High School to see if students were interested in working with the foundation. Within a few months, students formed the We’re All Human Committee and began to make real changes to let young people know there is help.

“Each time we held meetings, more students would show up,” Bartel said. “You guys turned our vision into a reality.”

Jordan Bartel performs a song dedicated to his brother, Ryan, who took his own life in 2014. (Photo by Alexis Ward)
Jordan Bartel performs a song dedicated to his brother, Ryan, who took his own life in 2014. (Photo by Alexis Ward)

Loudoun County Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large), who joined students on the walk, said she wouldn’t have missed it for anything. She stopped at a sign one student had taped to a chain-link fence that read, “Don’t lose hope.”

Randall, a mental health therapist, said it’s not depression that triggers a person to take her own life, but hopelessness. “People who don’t have hope do not think there’s anything in their future worth living for,” she said. The Woodgrove students’ event, she added, is exactly the kind of thing that can bring change. “No one talks about suicide. This brings it out in the public so people know they’re not alone and there is help. This is brave.”

Bartel’s hope is for every school in Loudoun to host an annual We’re All Human walk and assembly, with a focus on suicide prevention. The movement has already spread to an elementary school on the opposite end of the county. Teachers at Arcola Elementary in Dulles put on a We’re All Human walk for students today, and, instead of directly talking about suicide, taught students about how small, kind acts can have far-reaching effects.

“If you can, at an early age, teach kindness and awareness, then they grow up to be good citizens,” Bartel said. “We have a huge problem in our community. … But if we can all come together, we can make a big difference. Today is just the beginning.”


4 thoughts on “Students Walk to Curb Suicide Countywide

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  • 2016-04-08 at 10:19 pm

    Charlie – I’ve battled with you over your anti-gun stance issues forever. Suicide is obviously one of saddest moments anyone can experience and it has affected me personally numerous times very recently. Your diatribe from suicide to statistics of murders to schools shootings is truly saddening….. One true statistic is that without guns in the household is that nighttime murders, where bad guys readily break into random homes because they know every home is unarmed, the murder rate in the USA would be in the 100,000+ range easily. Do you know why or how criminals target their victims? They can smell people like you a mile away as you are easy prey. There needs to be a balance to protect those suicidal people, children, etc. from gaining access to legal weapons and protecting the innocent public from being harmed, which takes the gun owner and in our case state police. In my opinion, I think their should be a national database, but I do fear the confiscation efforts that happened in Australia, Canada, etc. Please do some research about the actual amount of true handguns in Austrailia and Britain as they have been invaded along with drugs, multi-culturism, etc. Guns are readily available on the streets, but the police need to check them out daily for their shifts, which is laughable. I am not talking about single-shot “long-guns” as you refer to them, which the respective foreign governments require the owners to keep locked-up when not in use under massive penalty of law. Do you own any? Shot any recently? Did you know Austrailia has a massive nighttime home invasion problem??? Gun owners can’t get to their single-shot rifles in time. Folks without guns are SOL as the hoodlums are armed…. Please do some research on it and your Democrat friend Harry Reid, the biggest backer of the NRA, and the biggest in essence (Owner) of a gun range in Nevada.

  • 2016-04-06 at 6:55 pm

    Of those who attempted suicide in 2001

    • three of every five (60%) chose overdose/poison
    • one of every five (20%) chose cutting/piercing
    • six of every hundred (6%) chose gunshot wound
    • three of every hundred (3%) chose suffocation


    • Of every hundred who chose overdose/poison ninety-eight (98%) survived
    • Of every hundred who chose cutting/piercing ninety-nine (99%) survived
    • Of every hundred who chose gunshot wound, fifteen only (15%) survived
    • Of every hundred who chose suffocation, thirty-one only (31%) survived

    CDC reported that in death from suicide in 2014

    • half died from gunshot wounds
    • another quarter died from suffocation

    “Households that keep firearms on hand have an elevated rate of suicide for all concerned—the owner, spouse, and teen children” (Cook & Goss, 2014, p. 42).

    On Great Britain more than three quarters of a million have long guns but the British control of access to handguns is so stringent it amounts to a ban. The result? Gunshot wounds are a principal cause of neither homicide nor suicide. Here, however, in homicide two of every three die from gunshot wounds (8,124 in 2014) and in suicide half from gunshot wounds (21,334 in 2014).

    Politicians who cater to a minority in the one third of households with guns who want easy access to handguns, who ignore and defy the rest of us, make this country pay a heavy price in murder, murder of police officers, police killings—hundreds of our police officers become killers every year—and suicide.

    Our murder rate is multiples of rates in other highly developed countries. Our attack rate is not extraordinary but our attack survival rate is extraordinarily low. In attacks guns are much more lethal than other weapons.

    “School shooting” is an everyday expression and throughout our country little children practice “active shooter” drills.

    Cook, P. J. & Goss, K. A. (2014). The gun debate: What everyone needs to know. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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