CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A recent CDC survey shows one in three high school girls in the U.S. has seriously considered attempting suicide, and more than half of teen girls report feeling "persistently sad or hopeless" — a record high.
The Studer family in Chesterfield County tragically knows these statistics all too well. Their daughter, Sophia, died by suicide in January of 2021.
Sophia attended Matoaca Middle School. She was an athlete, honors student and loved music. Sunday would have been her 16th birthday.
From the outside looking in, Sophia's life seemed perfect, and her parents, Shane and Michelle, said even their daughter was confused about why she was feeling sad and hopeless. She had recently seen a psychologist and was on the wait list for two counselors when she took her own life.
"I'm just trying desperately to make some good out of what has happened with Sophia," explained Michelle tearfully. "And honestly, I am at a point where I'll do whatever it takes to make sure that a child or a veteran or adult anyone doesn't feel as hopeless as our daughter did and think that suicide was the answer."
For the third year in a row, the Studers are holding an annual "Walk in the Light" event at The Highlands in Chesterfield in their daughter's honor.
The goal is to not only keep Sophia's story alive, but to also raise awareness about suicide prevention.
Friday's event will feature a 3.12 mile walk around The Highlands neighborhood, a food truck, mental health resources and a prayerful lantern release.
"This is bigger than Sophia," said Michelle. "It's bigger than you and I. It's a community issue that needs to be addressed, and that's mental illness. It doesn't discriminate. It's something that one in four globally experience, so we're gonna run into people who are struggling in our homes, in our classrooms, at our jobs, all throughout the community."
Friday's walk starts at 4 p.m. at The Highlands pool and tennis courts, and it will finish around 6:45 p.m. with the lantern release at the lake.
If you can’t make it, the Studers encourage you to complete your own 3.12 mile walk and post a photo to social media with the hashtag #DoItForSophia to raise awareness about suicide prevention.
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