WENDELL, N.C. (WNCN)–The Wendell community is coming together to support the family of a middle school student who family members say took his own life.
Jessica Pendergrass said her son, Austin, took his own life earlier this week; he was 13.
Parents from Wendell Middle School organized a vigil in the town square Thursday night.
“I just wish Austin knew [there were] so many people that loved him and cared about him,” Pendergrass said.
Dozens of people lit candles, hugged, and prayed.
“We have just felt so much love and support from the community, from strangers, from our family, and friends,” Pendergrass said.
Pendergrass said her son was funny, helpful, and smart. She said her son was bullied.
Journeys in Mental Health & Wellness is offering free counseling to the school community this weekend to help process what happened. The clinic is 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 3134 Wendell Blvd. The owner, and a psychiatric nurse practitioner, Nicole Brooker, said there could be future clinics depending on demand.
Brooker said this is the time to start a conversation with your child about depression, mental health, and suicide.
“Talk to your child and say ‘hey how are you feeling?;” Brooker said. “You know, how are you feeling, have you been depressed, have you ever had those thoughts of hurting yourself, and get their opinions on how they feel about the incident. What do you think about what just happened, and try to open that dialogue about depression, and suicide, and self-harm.”
It’s a conversation Pendergrass hopes parents will have.
“For parents to just check on their kids, I’d give anything to hug him a little tighter tonight,” Pendergrass said.
If you or someone you know ever needs help, the suicide and crisis lifeline is available 24 hours a day by calling 988.