MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Pa. - As the bullying epidemic persists, tragic stories of the consequences are commonplace these days.
Studies show it can lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues. If not addressed, bullying can have profound effects on individuals and communities.
One such individual that was severely impacted was Peyton James. Petyon was a 13-year-old child from Texas, suffered years of taunting and bullying from his schoolmates.
They ridiculed him for having red hair, freckles and discolored teeth from oxygen treatments he received after being born premature.
On Oct. 8, 2014, Peyton arrived home from school and went straight to his room where his mother later found him lifeless. He went into a coma and was taken off life support five days later.
Peyton's story has inspired The Peyton Heart Project – a mission is to help stop bullying, suicide and to help end the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Participants knit hearts that include inspiring messages and hand them out around their community.
“We want to leave people with a feeling that there is still good out there in the world,” the creators of the mission explained.
Abby, an eighth grader at Upper Moreland High School, is handing out 1,000 colored hearts to spread awareness for suicide and mental health in honor of Peyton and World Mental Health Day.
With the help of her family during the summer, Abby hand-knitted all the ribbons.
“It’s to make everybody feel wanted and for them to have a positive quote if they need it that day,” she explained to FOX 29’s Thomas Drayton.
Each heart also has phone numbers to Veterans’ Crisis hotline and the Suicide Prevention hotline on the back.
Upper Moreland High School Principal Joe Carracappa explained that Abby’s mission shocked him.
“I was so amazed at all the work she wanted to put in to get this message out to our kids,” he said. “Being an eighth grader, I was a little overwhelmed at the fact that she felt she could come with a thousand hearts to hand out to our students. But she has just amazed me at every turn.”
Beyond Abby’s project, school officials are actively working with the student body to raise mental health awareness.
“One of the things that we know our students are struggling with is the amount of pressures that they have on them especially in the high school years,” Principal Carracappa added. “So, we’re trying to get the message out that if they need help or need to start the conversation, there is help.”
“Help is just a phone call away,” Principal Carracappa reminds everyone.
If you or a loved one is feeling distressed, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The crisis center provides free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to civilians and veterans. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or text to 741-741
CLICK HERE: https://afsp.org/about-suicide/risk-factors-and-warning-signs/ for the warning signs and risk factors of suicide. Call 1-800-273-TALK for free and confidential emotional support.