(Pictured left to right) RBR Seniors Bridget Kelly, 17, Little Silver, and Julie Coker, 17, Union Beach, spearheaded this year's RBR outreach during National Suicide Prevention Week, to spread awareness.
LITTLE SILVER:During the second week of September, which is designated as National Suicide Prevention Week, students from Red Bank Regional (RBR) were engaged in furthering awareness on what is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Bridget Kelly, an RBR senior and athlete on RBR's running teams, was recently shocked when a talented runner she used to compete against, committed suicide at the elite Ivy League university she was attending.
"This is the age when people are so vulnerable and may become susceptible to thoughts of suicide. So I wanted to do something to further awareness during this week," Bridget explains.
Bridget's simple but brilliant idea was to distribute life-saver® candy to her peers during their lunch period. The candies were wrapped with paper printed with The National Suicide-Prevention Hot Line number. It read, "Be a life saver, call 1-800- 273 TALK (8255)." Experience teaches us that while young people who have suicidal thoughts may never share them with their parents or other adults, they almost always give some indication that they are struggling to their friends. The students' goal this week was to reach out to their peers to alert them to who can help if they fear their friend might take their own life.
Another RBR senior, Julie Coker, Union Beach, joined Bridget in distributing the candies as well as important suicide-prevention information and positive message wrist bands. Julie feels so strongly about the issue that she recently joined the Youth Council Executive Committee for Society for the Prevention of Suicide in Freehold. The mission of the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is to reduce the number of youth suicides and attempted suicides by encouraging public awareness through the development and promotion of educational training programs.
Julie shares that, "This is something I just feel so passionately about that I want to educate people and spread awareness." She adds, "The message is 'it is okay to get help for yourself or a friend experiencing a problem or an issue.' That person needs to understand that he or she is not alone. There are so many resources out there."
RBR is one of few high schools in Monmouth County to have a whole team of clinicians and counselors on campus devoted to improving mental health issues and bringing awareness to these concerns.
Stacy Liss, Clinical Supervisor of The SOURCE, RBR's School Based Youth Services Program states, "While it is clearly important to designate a week for suicide awareness and prevention, this is an issue we address all year long."
Ten years ago, after the suicide of an RBR Sophomore, The Source in conjunction with the health education teachers, developed a suicide awareness and prevention program called the Signs of Suicide (SOS). SOS is presented in the health education classes each marking period.
Ms. Liss adds, "As a result of SOS, every year, many students self-identify for either being at risk for themselves or concerned about a friend or loved one. Follow up is provided by the Source Clinicians and Student Assistance Counselor, Lori Todd, to ensure that the students are provided with support and resources. While the goal of SOS is to identify youth at risk for suicide, Liss explains, "We are also assisting students who may not be at risk for suicide, but who need help with managing stress , peer and family issues."
RBR staff also works at the community and State level to address suicide in New Jersey. Ms. Liss is a member of the Traumatic Loss Coalition of Monmouth County that responds to sudden death in schools and the community. RBR SOURCE Director Suzanne Keller serves on the NJ Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council. Additionally, this year RBR will be collaborating with SOURCE Social Work intern and Monmouth University Graduate student, Quinn Batcho, who is a volunteer at the You Cannot Be Replaced campaign that was developed in response to the many suicides that impacted the Manasquan and Spring Lake communities several years ago. Quinn provided wrist bands that stated "You cannot be replaced".
Quinn Batcho elaborates, "Sometimes it is hard to make a connection, but wrist bands can be a symbol and a reminder that you are not alone. Our hope is that a student who is wearing the bracelet can pass the wrist band on to a friend in need which communicates that, 'You are a good friend, you are unique and you cannot be replaced."