Guest Speaker Hunter Acconcio Gives a Talk on Suicide Prevention

Scroll Down To See a List of Support for Students and Families

Quinn Suomala, Features Editor

Mental health issues have always been a cause for concern in our country, especially now due to the recent incline caused by COVID. Many people have been working to raise awareness for mental health issues and to try to help provide support for people who are struggling. One such person is Hunter Acconcio, a Minnechaug alum, who was a guest speaker at ‘Chaug on March 25th. Hunter gave a presentation to the Above the Influence Club (ATI Club) about suicide prevention and mental health awareness. 

Mental health and suicide prevention are two issues that are very personal to Hunter, due to his father’s passing from suicide when he was eight years old. Since his father’s passing, Hunter has worked toward helping to spread awareness of and understanding for people who are struggling with mental health. He attends events, such as the “Out of the Darkness Walk”, and now is majoring in Special Education (elementary) with a focus in psychology in the hopes of being able to help even more people, especially children, with his knowledge. 

Hunter has made it his goal to be as educated and empathetic as possible.

“I make it part of my mission to reach out to everybody,” he said.

One way he works toward this mission is by educating himself and then trying to educate others, which was his goal of speaking to the ATI club at ‘Chaug on March 25th. 

At this talk, he hoped to educate the members of the ATI Club on mental health and suicide prevention, as well as working toward helping any of them who may be struggling to feel less alone. One important topic he broached was the subject of the phrase “committed suicide” vs “died by suicide”. He informed the attendees that saying “committed suicide”  makes it seem like there is a choice in it, like it is a voluntary action when it is entirely involuntary.

“It (suicide) affects someone similarly to a virus or a disease, clearly someone doesn’t have a choice. If someone passes away in a fire, it was clearly not their choice, no one chooses to do that. Suicide is the same way. It’s a death; it’s not a choice,” he said. 

During this talk, Hunter was also open to answering questions and giving advice to students. He thinks it is important to keep people educated and help them to feel less alone if they themselves are struggling with mental health, or if they know someone who is. His words and advice certainly helped the students of the ATI club, many of them informing me afterward that his speech and kind attitude helped them to feel less alone. 

“It felt good knowing that I could have someone to relate to and that I wasn’t alone,” Cameron Hanks told me. 

Hunter’s talk also helped to make members feel more aware about suicide and how they can help others who are struggling. As stated by Jared Laliberte, “this talk has helped me to become more aware and helpful to people I care about”. Bethany Whalen-Sylver also felt that “he was able to reach everyone who was listening at once; everyone knows what it’s like to not be okay, and accepting that can really help you get through tough times”. 

Hunter’s speech has had a great impact on me, and the members of the ATI club who attended. His open attitude and strive to help others through his actions clearly shone through, and he left an important message for any who may be struggling right now. He hopes to keep spreading awareness and to inspire others to do the same, for it is through education that we can reach understanding and begin to work towards a solution. He also wants everyone out there to know that “it is okay to not be okay”, and to keep in mind that there are support systems you can go to if you ever need help. 

Here are some Support Networks:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration:

At Chaug, students  can also find help and resources. Under the Counseling Center page on Chaug’s homepage, the “Chaug Chill Zone,” which you can link to by clicking on the previous name, there are different resources for families and students. School psychologist Molly Cole Cole said it is like a self-help space where students can select different resources, tools and other education materials, as well as important phone numbers that students or families can call for help.

Students who are struggling with mental health issues can also reach out to Guidance Department to speak with a guidance counselor or adjustment counselor.