Breaking the stigma of mental illness

Weston family creates foundation to fight suicide

WESTON, Fla. – Debbie and Dave Schopp describe their late son Dylan as the epitome of happiness; so much so his nickname was Sunshine.

"Because he always had a smile on his face," his mother said.

"He was the kid everyone wanted to be around," Davie Schopp added.

But in 2015, the outgoing college student who dreamed of becoming a sportscaster took his own life.

"I don't know what was behind that smile those last weeks because he didn't say. There was a tipping point but I don't know what that was," Dave Schopp said.

After his death, one of Dylan's many friends wrote a song titled "Sunshine" as a tribute to Dylan and a way to touch other young people struggling with depression, but his parents wanted to do more. 

The Schopps, along with their daughter, Dara, launched the Dylan Schopp Sunshine Foundation in an effort to turn their pain into something positive.

"We just want to help as much as we can, to help make others aware that having a mental health issue is not a stigma. It's important to talk about it because keeping it to yourself doesn't help," Debbie Schopp said.

The Schopps decided to team up with the Florida Initiative for Suicide Prevention to create a high school-based effort called The Hope Sunshine Club.   

The clubs are now in 50 South Florida schools and give students a safe environment to talk about their struggles and express their feelings.

"Our goal is to help young people, children, students find a way to be resilient and cope," said Joe Smith, programming director for the clubs.

The Schopps feel the community outreach is a way to keep Dylan's memory alive and fill the world with a little more sunshine.

"His name is still there. We're still talking about him and I know he's watching over us," Debbie Schopp said.

The Schopp Sunshine Foundation has raised $175,000 since its creation.  

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