As many of you know, an amazing thing happened this week. I reached out to our schools and community leaders, invited them to a Teen Suicide Prevention Summit, and the response was overwhelming.
My goal in convening the summit is to provide immediate help and support to kids who feel their only option is to take their own lives. We lost five kids to suicide in a matter of weeks in our community, and, as a person who grew up here, raised my kids here and cares deeply about the well-being of all children, I knew I had to contribute to a solution.
I did my homework on proven peer-based, school-based, nationally implemented strategies, then I started calling people. The response was tremendous.
School superintendants, leaders of mental health agencies and lawmakers from all over the state responded. Within a matter of a few weeks, more than 125 leaders agreed to meet and participate in a historic dialogue about teen suicide in our community.
Although I rarely worry, I’ll admit that I lost a lot of sleep leading up to the summit. I couldn’t help but think: What if there is contention and we are unable to have a productive conversation? What if no one in the room can agree on a solution? What if my presentation isn’t convincing? I was pretty nervous entering that big room, and I sent up more than a few fervent prayers that God would guide the event.
What happened was truly inspiring. Leaders from our school districts all enthusiastically agreed to explore new ways to work together to prevent teen suicide. Over a dozen mental health agencies agreed to form new, closer relationships with schools to streamline access to services and provide help for kids in crisis. The lawmakers in attendance proposed powerful ways to fund prevention and intervention.
At the end of the night, I collapsed into my car and cried with gratitude. Rarely have so many important people sat together and accomplished so much in one night. I know that their work and their willingness to collaborate and find solutions will touch the lives of thousands of kids and families.
But some of the sweetest moments I’ve experienced as part of this summit didn’t occur in that room. Rather, they came from the hundreds of people who have called or emailed to share their desire to help. Teens who have lost friends. Paramedics who’ve responded to suicide calls. Parents whose children have died or nearly died because they didn’t feel they could live another day. Medical examiners, abuse specialists, social workers, teachers — so many caring hearts. Even my marketing partner, Turell Group — led by the incredibly energetic Dana Turell — turned its entire effort to organizing the summit, and donated much of their time, because they believe in finding a solution as much as I do.
The uprising of heartfelt love for our children shown bright, and it has been humbling and inspiring for me to witness. I am proud to live in this community, and prouder yet to see that, in the face of crisis, good and loving people from all walks of life seek to help our adolescents live happier lives.
There are many steps yet to come to implement an across-the-board solution to the problem of suicide, and every single person who’s willing will have a role to play in our success. But at the end of the day, the common goal is to support and protect our kids. And that’s something with which everyone can agree.
Stay tuned for ways that you can get involved as this community effort moves forward.