When R. was a junior at Bais Rivkah high school, one of her classmates, a girl she didn’t know well, confided in R. that she was thinking of killing herself.
R. didn’t know what to do.
“I tried my best to be there for her, but I was really scared that I was going to say or do the wrong thing,” R. shared. Her classmate eventually did get help, but the experience left R. feeling shaken. “I wish I had had better tools to help her.”
R is not alone. More students are struggling with suicide than ever before. Today’s high school students are often the first line of support for their classmates and friends, but most of them don’t know how to help.
In an effort to combat this serious issue, Bais Rivkah High School in Crown Heights partnered with the Gelt Charitable Foundation to offer suicide prevention education to their entire school community. If You See Something, Say Something, the 75-minute suicide alertness workshop, offered students, faculty, and parents insightful tools and strategies to assist individuals in times of crisis. The workshop was written and facilitated by Mrs. Leigh Ioffe, a certified suicide prevention educator and mental health advocate.
For Tzirl Goldman, Director of Student Affairs of the freshman class at Bais Rivkah, this workshop could not have come at a better time. “We hosted this series because we feel we owe it to our students, parents and teachers to offer as many preventative services as possible. Suicide prevention is, unfortunately, a very necessary tool for today’s teachers. It’s like being trained in CPR; I hope I never need it, but I’m glad I have the tools.”
According to the CDC, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-34, and as we move towards year two of life under the stress of the Coronavirus Pandemic, many experts express fear that suicide rates among youth will rise. One of the core tenants of creating a community that is safer from suicide is prevention and awareness education. The power of empowering one person to make a difference can literally save lives.
“These workshops opened the door to conversations about mental health that we were not having before,” Mrs. Goldman added. “Normalizing this is a big deal. Teenagers should know that it’s okay to ask for help, and this workshop helped reiterate that to our students.”
“I think it was a big step for our school to offer this workshop, shared Mrs. S, a parent whose three daughters are students at Bais Rivkah. “It’s great that the teachers and parents had the opportunity to learn this valuable information.”
As for R. and her classmates, the workshop helped boost her confidence about offering —and asking for—help. “The workshop helped me understand how to be there for my friend, but also how to support myself. I appreciated that Leigh stressed the importance of identifying a trusted adult who I could speak to when I or my friends are struggling.”
“Bais Rivkah set an incredible example by offering this workshop, not just to their students, but also the teachers and parents. That speaks volumes.” shared Leigh Ioffe, Gelt Charitable Foundation’s Director of Education. “I encourage other schools to follow suit. These kinds of conversations can save lives.”
To learn more about the Gelt Charitable Foundation, or to request a workshop for your school, community, or organization visit: https://www.geltcharitable.foundation/mentalhealth or call Ella at 941-928-2220