DOVER — "Dear Diary, today was awful," Adrian Dotson read from her script. "I am mentally, physically and emotionally drained. Sometimes I don’t feel like living anymore. Is it worth it?"
Angel White, playing the role of a negative voice inside her head, answered the question.
"No, it’s not worth living," White said, popping out from behind her friend. "Nobody wants you here."
White retreated silently behind the other girl while Dotson told her journal the details of the night’s date with her abusive boyfriend. The girl had ordered a burger, fries and coleslaw for dinner. The boyfriend told the waitress she would have a salad because she already weighed 150 pounds, too much for him
"Gosh, you should really lose weight," said Dotson, as the bullying voice in her head. "You’re so fat. I mean, seriously, try exercising sometime."
She tried to remain quiet on the ride home to let her boyfriend cool down. But when he dropped her off, he gave her a shove and an insult.
"I don’t know what to do anymore," said White. "There’s nobody I can talk to. I’m embarrassed to tell my friends. I can’t tell my family. I never thought I’d be in this situation. Sometimes I wish I could control what was happening to me."
"You did this to yourself. You don’t deserve pity," said Dotson in the role of negative self-talk.
The abuse victim’s need to have one area of her life which she could control leads to her cutting herself.
The two-girl team of Buckeye Career Center juniors presented their skit with chilling emotion as part of an illustrated lecture about self-harm, such as cutting, among teenagers.
The team developed their project, "Speak Out," to raise awareness about self-harm. They shared the award-winning presentation at the Dover Public Library on May 23. Their stated goal is to teach people about the methods of self-harm, how to cope with it, and how to help others who may harm themselves through such means as cutting.
"Our goal is to help as many people as we can," Dotson said.
After one presentation, a boy said it changed his life, said White.
"We have had people thank us because it has encouraged them to get help," she said.
They have already given their talk at Buckeye in New Philadelphia. Students completed a questionnaire about self-harm. The presentation includes a list of local resources for help.
According to Healthy Place, a mental health website, there are approximately 2 million reported cases of self-harm in the United States each year.
White and Dotson, who are preparing for teaching careers at Buckeye, acknowledge that the topic is hard for many to talk about.
They shared their personal experiences. Dotson, from Garaway High School, and White, from Indian Valley High School, serve as each other’s support team and trusted listener.
"If I have something going on, I can go to her and I can talk to her about it," White said of Dotson. "Most times, she tells me to suck it up. But she normally talks me through it. And if she has an issue, she always comes to me."
Dotson and White challenged members of their audience to find somebody to talk to.
"It doesn’t matter if you don’t think you have issues, everybody needs somebody they know they can talk to that won’t use it against them, whether it’s a teacher or a friend or a family member," they say in their slide show. "So our challenge is for you to find your listener."
They said causes of self-harm include depression, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse, borderline personalty disorder and conduct and oppositional disorders.
Reasons for self-harm may be:
* Coping with emotions.
* Stopping bad feelings.
* Relieving emotional numbness, to feel something.
* To punish themselves.
* To feel like they belong.
* To gain attention.
* To feel pain they can control.
* To distract themselves from other types of pain.
* To feel sense of release.
In response to library audience questions about how to react to someone who is engaging in self-harm, White and Dotson had this advice:
* Do remain calm and caring.
* Be accepting even if you don’t agree with what they do.
* Understand that they are dealing with emotional pain.
* Listen with compassion, care about what they have to say.
* Get them help from a qualified mental health professional.
* Don’t act shocked or repulsed.
* Don’t try to stop the behavior with threats.
* Don’t let them relive it in detail, as this may cause them to do it again.
Project "Speak Out" earned the girls the chance to compete at the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America National Conference in Anaheim, California June 30 through July 4, 2019. Their illustrated talk placed first in the Ohio FCCLA State Leadership Conference April 25-26 in Columbus.
FCCLA is a national career and technical student organization for young men and women in family and consumer sciences education.
White and Dotson plan to offer the program in local educational institutions in the next school year. They plan to start a nonprofit organization to help students in middle school through college.
"It’s just two teenage girls trying to help other teenagers," Dotson said.
Dotson and White have started a GoFundMe account for Speak Out. It may be found online at https://www.gofundme.com/selfharm-resources-nonprofit-startup. They are seeking nonprofit status.