Lakewood grad awarded scholarship for mental health awareness

How personal loss sparked a desire to create change.

Bob Wooley
bwooley@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 6/3/21

Avery Wilson isn’t trying to change the world — just a really painful part of it. Wilson, a 2021 Lakewood High School graduate, has been working for the past three years to end the stigma around …

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Lakewood grad awarded scholarship for mental health awareness

How personal loss sparked a desire to create change.

Posted

Avery Wilson isn’t trying to change the world — just a really painful part of it.

Wilson, a 2021 Lakewood High School graduate, has been working for the past three years to end the stigma around mental illness and reduce teen suicide.

Now, that hard work is being recognized in the form of a scholarship from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). 

Wilson has been awarded the Mental Health Awareness Scholarship after writing an essay about her efforts to support young people who often suffer in silence, sometimes to the point of taking their own lives.

Teen suicide is a topic Wilson is all too familiar with. Three years ago, her best friend, high school sophomore Robbie Eckert, took his life. Wilson says she had no clue the boy she ate lunch with every day was suicidal.

“It was a complete surprise to everyone who knew him. We had no idea it was going to happen,” she said. “I had just gotten my driver’s license that day (of the suicide) and we were talking about being able to go off campus for lunch, and all of the other things we’d be able to do.”

His death, heartbreaking as it was to her, was also a catalyst to take action. She joined others affected by the loss, including Eckert’s parents, in founding Robbie’s Hope Foundation. 

The Foundation, a nonprofit, says they are “committed to supporting teens to remove the stigma around anxiety and depression and ultimately cut the rate of teen suicide in half by 2028.”

Wilson says the foundation offers Hope Groups where teens can get together to talk and interact in a safe environment. They’ve also created a handbook, A Guide By Teens on How to Talk to Teens, written from the perspective of a teen, to help teach adults to communicate better with their kids.

“We don’t have all of the answers,” she says. “But we want to start that (mental health awareness) conversation.”

This fall, Wilson will be heading east, to the University of New Hampshire, where she’ll study Ocean Engineering.

She says she’s hoping to continue volunteering and being an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention on her new campus. The thought of which reminds her of a Jana Stanfield quote that’s become a favorite.

“I cannot do all the good that the world needs. But the world needs all the good that I can do.”

To learn more about the work Wilson, the Eckert’s, and others are doing through Robbie’s Hope Foundation, you can visit their website at www.robbies-hope.com.

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