On January 23, Jenison High School Social Worker, Kris Faber, Superintendent, Tom TenBrink, Assistant Principal Rhonda Raab, Counselor Jenny Riha and seven Jenison High students joined other students from Ottawa County to talk about the realities of suicide and how to help prevent it.
The event (called the Ottawa County Suicide Prevention Summit) was on at Zeeland East High Sshool and it was a coordinated effort with OAISD with twelve districts in attendance. The group spent the day collaborating with local districts to learn what efforts are being utilized to address mental health needs and suicide prevention.
The Mental Health foundation of West Michigan was a co-sponsor for the day promoting the positive benefits of the Be Nice! program throughout West Michigan. Ms. Faber adds, “We were also able to hear speaker Rick Chyme share his personal story and challenge everyone to “plant seeds” of kindness and love toward others as you never know how one might positively impact others.” The team also had time as a JHS group to plan how we might impact our school specifically and work to diminish the stigma of mental health and seeking support.
In a 2013 Youth Assessment Survey of students in Ottawa County in grades 8, 10 and 12, that had seriously contemplated suicide, there was an alarmingly high rate of 16.7%. “Many adolescents are experiencing increased incidents and greater severity of mental health needs [especially anxiety and depression]. The stigma attached to seeking treatment can, at times, exacerbate the issues. ” Thankfully, JHS is working towards providing help any way they can.
Students are hopeful to continue the conversation in district and develop some tangible ways to provide support for existing mental health needs, as well as prevention of suicide. We are hopeful to create a culture of kindness toward others as well as a place where seeking support is seen as a strength. Sharing existing resources with students was one way we are hoping to be helpful to our students immediately.
Students! If you, or someone you know, has thought about or talked about committing suicide, there are people who care about you and are willing to help! You can visit Ms Faber or talk to any of your teachers, administrators, staff, or counselors. You can also call the Ottawa County Crisis Helpline: 866-512-4357.
[Photos courtesy of Kris Faber and @benicemi]