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These Canadian High School Students Walked Out Of Class After Five Suicides In Six Months

"I've tried to get help but no one cares in this town."

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Hundreds of students marched through Woodstock, Ontario, Tuesday morning in a walkout to call attention to a youth suicide crisis gripping the small community.

Five young people have died by suicide since the year started. Within the county, various agencies have received more than 40 calls from people in crisis, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

Instagram: @ces_oxford

Frustrated by a lack of access to mental health resources in the city of 38,000, high school students planned the walkout to both mourn those lost and ask for action from the city and local school board.

Cassondra Geilen knows first-hand how hard it is to get help in Woodstock for mental health issues. Now 22, Geilen lives with depression and anxiety that make it impossible to leave her home on some days.

Cassondra Geilen

"I’ve gone through hurting myself, trying to commit suicide, everything out there," she told BuzzFeed Canada.

"I've tried to get help but no one cares in this town."

She said she experienced ongoing bullying in addition to her own mental health issues, but found no assistance at school.

"I would try to talk to teachers about it and they said it would pass, it’s just high school, it’s just a phase," she said. "I was bullied to the point where I didn’t want to be here anymore."

When Geilen reached out for psychiatric help, she found a long waiting list, which led her to check into a hospital for immediate assistance.

Geoff Robins / THE CANADIAN PRESS

But even there, she said, the doctors made her uncomfortable. While she managed to find a good counsellor covered by provincial health insurance after discharge, those sessions eventually ran out.

Private counseling can run over $100 for a single session, putting them out of reach for many people.

Now, seeing a suicide crisis unfolding and high school students crying out for help "just breaks my heart," she said.

But she's also glad to see young people in Woodstock — her own teenage sister included — taking action with the walkout to call attention to the crisis.

Geoff Robins / THE CANADIAN PRESS

"I am so unbelievably proud of those kids for standing up. Just the fact that they went out of their way to make a point and stand up for this makes me want to cry," she said.

"I wish kids did that when I was in high school."

During the walkout, the students — joined by parents and other community members — marched to the town square carrying signs of support for those in need and demands for more help.

A huge turnout and amount of support at today's youth suicide crisis walkout in Woodstock 👍

Officials from Woodstock's public, French, and Catholic school boards told CBC News they're consulting mental health experts and monitoring social media. The CMHA has also diverted resources to the community.

Are you or someone you know in crisis?

Find a crisis centre here, or call:

Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

LGBT Youth Line: 1-800-268-9688

Trans Lifeline: 1-877-330-6366

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at lauren.strapagiel@buzzfeed.com.

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