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Five young people have killed themselves since January

Dale Carruthers

By Dale Carruthers, The London Free Press

Signs of support are popping up outside local high schools in light of a youth suicide crisis in Woodstock and Oxford County. Frustrated students are planning a walkout on Tuesday to push for immediate action. (MEGAN STACEY/Sentinel-Review)

Signs of support are popping up outside local high schools in light of a youth suicide crisis in Woodstock and Oxford County. Frustrated students are planning a walkout on Tuesday to push for immediate action. (MEGAN STACEY/Sentinel-Review)

WOODSTOCK  - 

Students at a Woodstock high school are torn between participating in a walkout for suicide awareness or attending a mass for the graduating class.

Following a spike of suicides in Woodstock, students from five city high schools plan to stand up and leave class Tuesday at 9 a.m.

But St. Mary's Catholic secondary school is holding an end-of-year mass to celebrate the graduating Grade 12 students at the same time, leaving students divided on what to do.

"We don't feel it's right to walk out of a graduating mass," said Danika Bastien, a Grade 10 student at St. Mary's.

"The Grade 12s are leadership students and they have done a lot for us."

Lauren Treleaven, a Grade 10, added: "We still agree with the message, but it's the wrong day for us."

For others, supporting the walkout trumps all else.

Grade 10 Julia Gilson got the green light from her parents to attend the demonstration.

"I don't want to be disrespectful but I also feel like I should show my support," she said.

There was one thing most of the St. Mary's students did agree on: school administrators don't want them to participate in the walkout.

The school's principal made a morning announcement Monday asking students to support the graduating class.

Tuesday's walkout is being organized to show support for five students who have killed themselves since January, and to raise awareness for other students who may be struggling.

Although both the Thames Valley District school board and the London District Catholic school board have organized meetings for parents, some students think the boards are focusing too much on talking to parents and not enough on talking to the students.

Also since January, up to 20 Woodstock high school students have attempted suicide, and there are rumours of a broader suicide pact.

There were no suicides by young people reported in Woodstock in 2016.

For full coverage of Tuesday's walkout, please check lfpress.com .