This is finally a topic that people are realizing needs to come out of the dark and into the light. There are things in the works right now to start educating kids of all ages and young adults. Right now, Montana is rated #3 only behind Wyoming and Alaska. However, a recent workshop that my daughter and I attended as well as current information we received from the state shows that Custer County has the highest rate per capita.
My daughter, a 7th grader at WMS lost 2 friends, her dad lost a young co-worker and Hannah lost a dance instructor in a suicide related death. All since 8/25/08.
Just recently she became a finalist in the Miss Montana Outstanding Teen program where her goal is to promote suicide awareness and prevention. She is currently working with 2 national organizations and also with the State Director of Suicide Awareness. It is a huge undertaking for a 13 year old but she doesn't want to lose anyone else. The only time that suicide is brought up is when someone dies. It should be coming up all the time, that's the only way to help.
This biggest factor in making an impact on suicide attempts and successes will come from educating people and making them aware of the signs, warnings, and how you can help make a difference.
By educating the public and making them aware of the signs and warnings we can save lives. Suicide is a silent epidemic that isn't affected by barriers such as race, religion or social status. We have all seen that first hand. It can strike anywhere, anyone. The truth is that many people who die by suicide don't want to end their life, but they want to end their pain.
From what we have been told, the schools have been introduced to a program from the state about 6 months ago. From what we understand the program hasn't been implemented at the level it should be. Right now, our community still places a stigma on depression which can ultimately lead to suicide. By not allowing the kids to learn more, and help eachother, we are setting the kids up that really need help. Setting them up for failure. The stigma often makes them feel that they shouldn't talk about their feelings or that they can't ask for help. How can we save these kids and young adults unless we educate them, provide them tools and offer them help.
Hannah is currently working with The Jason Foundation as well as The Million Voices campaign in order to bring a curriculum into our area. Kids respond to their peers better than they do an adult. There are many warning signs that we all overlook. Things we just take for granted and don't realize that they are cries for help. Hannah spent time talking with her friends just hours before they died. She didn't know what was happening. But, often times people have alreay made up their mind and their decision is one they are content with. This is the type of knowledge we need to put out there.
Once she has the program in place, her goal is to start educating kids as early as elementary school. They don't need tons of details, however, they start to transition at an early age and find themselves facing challenges and situations they can't handle. Since the kids that are gone were friends of hers, she is involving their families in her project. Showing them that they children won't be forgotten.
Additionally, we would like to work with the youth groups in our community as well as the surrounding ones to provide them with information too. Just remember if you can prevent just one suicide you can save hundreds of lives. The lives of their family, friends, and entire communities.
What it comes down to is that everyone needs to quit sticking their head in the sand and come out of the darkness. Let these kids know that it is ok to talk and that there are people out there that can help them. Suicide isn't a taboo word. It's a reality.
Hannah has been visiting businesses and individuals in our town and explaining what she is working to achieve. It is obviously something that people want to help with as the support has been overwhelming. It just takes someone to get it started.
By entering the MMOT pageant this summer it will allow Hannah to network with teens and adults from across the state. Let's start there.
If you would like to know more about what the plan is for implementing these programs right here in Miles City, please feel free to email us and we can provide you with much information. Again, by providing others with information we are educating.
There are many things that Hannah will be working on throughout the summer to increase awareness. She doesn't want suicide to be the topic for a couple of days when someone dies. She wants to show people how to get help, let others know what they can do to help someone and implement a media campaign across the community and possibly the state. A media plan such as the one like the Meth campaign.
We need to get our schools involved. We are working on getting the youth groups involved and will be considering holding and "Out of the Darkness" walk which is along the lines of Relay for Life. However, it brings people together to bring suicide into the light.
Again, Hannah would be more than happy to share information with you. If you would like to become part of the team that works on this, please contact us and we can begin working together. We all have kids, and those kids have friends. 13 and 14 year olds shouldn't have to experience loss like this. Parents shouldn't have to lose their children and brothers and sisters shouldn't be left alone.
We will keep you posted on the status of her progress as well as what she is working on. We are going to be launching a website especially for our community.
The Miss Montana Outstanding Teen Finals are going to be held in Sidney June 13th if you would like to support our own Miles City teen in helping to promote this. If you would like to help sponsor her in any way, please contact her.
I have to commend her for her courage to not be afraid to face this head on. Just remember, there isn't one way to prevent suicide but there are 600. We just have to know what to look for.
[This message has been edited by Julie H (5/27/2009)]