“It’s real scary for school administrators to say, ‘we’re going to talk about suicide,’” said Peggy Kubert, Director of Education for Erika’s Lighthouse. “We have to begin to de-stigmatize and make it less stressful.”
There is no easy answer to the question of what causes young people to take their lives, Kubert noted.
A May 10, 2018 BlueCross BlueShield Health of America Report reported on:
An Epidemic of Teen Depression.
On September 19, 2019 the Indian River County Hospital District approved a budget that added up to $45,000 in funding to the already approved $30,000 for direct services, for the Mental Health Association (MHA) of Indian River County to implement the Erika’s Lighthouse in Middle and High Schools for 6th and 9th grade students.
Last year MHA had 970 participating students in 9th grade. 74% polled that the program had “encouraged them to make positive choices,” 68% polled that they “would think in a new way,” and 97 students received additional services.
From a modest start 15 years ago in Winnetka, Ill, Erika’s Lighthouse has gone from providing free educational programs on depression and suicide awareness in their local community, to now touching the lives of students, parents and school professionals in 300 schools spread across 36 states.
The programs, along with countless other resources such as The Parent Handbook for Childhood and Teen Depression and the Teen Depression Toolbox, can be found on ErikasLighthouse.org, free of charge.
“The Hospital District Board of Trustees and I believe this is a great benefit to our public-school students and hope that the collaborative effort will continue to reach all students in our community,” wrote Ann Marie Suriano, Hospital District Executive Director.
MHA’s funding was approved by a majority vote – two members voted no; Trustees Michael Weiss and Tracy Lockwood-Zudans.
Concerns expressed were that the School District should be funding the program; Trustees concluding they will be setting up a meeting with the School Board to better understand how the District plans to provide for these important programs in the future.
Additionally, concerns were expressed that the Substance Awareness Council (SAC) could be performing the services rather than the MHA, as they have had a longstanding relationship within the School District providing prevention education.
SAC is primarily focused on two initiatives – substance-abuse prevention and substance-abuse recovery. They are able to add programs, like Erika’s Lighthouse, a depression and suicicde prevention component, to the curriculum for little cost.
The Substance Awareness Center is adding the same Erika’s Lighthouse program to their Life Skills Training program in the 4 School District mandated middle schools for 6-8 grades at no additional cost.
Ericka’s Lighthouse programs address the challenges surrounding teen depression using the most impactful, innovative, and accessible methods available today. This includes interactive web-based resources, multimedia classroom teaching tools, and teen-to-teen interventions, which makes Erika’s Lighthouse a trailblazer for mental health education.
In middle school, the focus is on depression awareness and what leads to good mental health. In high school, the topics include self-injury, suicide, bullying, and trans-gender issues.
The organization offers the materials on the web and will provide help as educators tailor it to suit a particular school or district.
Some of the issues that the students tackle in videos include bullying, coping with a parent’s depression, or parents’ divorce, LGBTQ+ issues, anxiety about being an immigrant, and pressure to succeed.
“The recent news about teen suicides is a stark reminder that students are hurting, and they should know that they can turn to adults in school when the world suddenly seems horribly dark,” said New York School Board Association President William Miller. “Part of the solution involves high quality curriculums that reduce the stigma that prevents students from seeking help and gives young people a way to better understand their feelings.”