On Wednesday, April 26, 2017, with the assistance of Child Guidance Center of Southern Connecticut (CGC), Amaya Cooper, Karen Leon, and Cristin Johnson, eighth grade students at Turn of River Middle School (TOR) in Stamford, shared the details of a suicide prevention project they developed as part of their middle school capstone project.

While brainstorming ideas for their project, the TOR students knew that they wanted to do something that would positively impact their community. After doing research, they decided that their project would revolve around a topic that no one ever wants to talk about: suicide. To learn how they could help young people who are struggling with suicidal thinking or depression, they sought guidance from their school’s Family Advocate, Joann Carde. Ms. Carde immediately referred the girls to CGC’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Services clinician, Stephanie Garcia, LPC, for information and assistance.

“Their questions were incredibly insightful,” stated Ms. Garcia when asked about her interview with the Turn of River students. “They wanted to know what signs to look for and how to help someone who may be suicidal. So I offered advice that included calling 2-1-1 and safety planning.”

These eighth grade girls are now suicide prevention advocates. Following their interview with Ms. Garcia, Amaya, Karen, and Cristin each created an individualized safety plan and pinned them to their backpacks. Their safety plans contained steps to help them overcome any negative thoughts they may be having, such as taking a deep breath and counting to ten, asking the teacher if they can take a two minute walk, listening to music, and talking to a trusted friend. When asked how often they use their safety plans, the girls answered in unison, “everyday.” These teenage advocates have inspired other students to develop their own safety plans, starting a school wide suicide prevention trend. With this project, these girls are helping to eliminate the stigma of discussing suicide, and empowering students who are struggling with harmful thoughts to reach out to someone for help.

On Wednesday, April 26th, the Turn of River students shared their presentation with Ms. Garcia, which included national statistics about suicide and triggers for suicidal thinking. To help the girls with their advocacy project, Ms. Garcia provided them with resource brochures and posters. When asked what their biggest takeaway was from this project, Cristin said, “Speak up. If we know that someone is having suicidal thoughts, then we need to encourage them to tell an adult or speak on their behalf and tell an adult ourselves. I’d much rather speak up and have my friend be mad at me than stay quiet and possibly lose them forever.”

For more information about this Turn of River suicide prevention project, please contact Joann Carde at [email protected]. For more information about CGC’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Services program, contact CGC’s Director of Crisis Services, Cindy Perjon, LCSW, at (203) 517-3318 or [email protected].