A banana costume, a duet guitar performance, building a LEGO city? This year’s Talbot Speaker, Joe Vulopas, used some unconventional methods to communicate an important message to students. Founder and executive director of Aevidum, Mr. Vulopas’s goal is spreading awareness about depression, suicide and hope.
“Suicide is the third leading cause of death among adolescents, yet most schools won’t address it, for fear that it will give students the idea to commit suicide,” Mr. Vulopas began. “That’s foolish. We have to let students know how to recognize symptoms of depression, so they can help themselves and their friends.”
Aevidum is a depression and suicide education awareness initiative launched at the Pennsylvania high school where Joe Vulopas teaches English. Aevidum involves trained adults in empowering middle and high school students to understand that depression is a treatable illness; to know the warning signs of depression; to use their gifts and talents to spread the message of hope; and to be advocates for their friends—other students—who may need help. Partnered with health and education professionals from University of Pennsylvania, Aevidum also addresses many other issues facing teenagers today.
Addressing students, Mr. Vulopas showed a short public service announcement created by a student, which featured a boy walking around his high school corridors in a banana suit. The 30-second clip ended with the tag line: Depression doesn’t always stick out. “Depression doesn’t necessarily announce itself, like a person in a banana costume” Mr. Vulopas said. “We have to know our friends; we have to know their ‘normal’ so we know when something is unusual—so we can act.”
At the end of the assembly, Mr. Vulopas’s projected screen emphasized the telephone number for the National Suicide Help Line. He encouraged students to plug the number into their cell phones. Milton’s Individual Student Support (ISS) seniors reminded students in Classes I–IV that they can, and should, talk to a counselor, an ISS member, or an adult with whom they feel safe if they are feeling upset or are concerned about a friend.
The Samuel S. Talbot ’65 Memorial Fund for Counseling and Community Issues, established in 1993, enhances the School’s efforts in teaching members of the community about affective behavioral issues.
To learn more about Aevidum, visit the Web site: www.aevidum.com