A group of fifth graders from Sandpoint, ID is taking a stand against teen suicide; and in doing so, will be attending the Be The Change Conference in Madrid, Spain as the Ambassador team representing the United States. They are special not only because they elected to focus on the issues around middle school teen suicide following six teenage suicides in their hometown over the past two years, but also for having the courage to do so. You see, these fifth graders understand that the problem is far more pervasive than we want to admit. And if their town’s loss wasn’t big enough, consider this: for every 1 teen suicide there are 25 additional attempted suicides among their peers. This is not only shocking, but it’s also everyone’s problem.
Design for Change USA, is a nonprofit organization is working, not only to change these statistics, but also to transform middle school youth by addressing the issue of teen suicide head on. Recently, they partnered with Power2Change, CSI Enterprises’ charitable support foundation to do just this.
Most of us don’t realize that teen suicide in girls has nearly doubled from 2007 to 2015, reaching its highest rate since the CDC began tracking it in 1975. For boys, it is up almost 30% and continuing to climb. Taking action now is imperative; it begins with fifth graders like those from Sandpoint, conferences like Be The Change, and everyone around us.
“This conference is part of the global Design for Change movement that seeks to empower kids with the “I Can” confidence to be the change they want to see in the world,” said Sanjli Gidwaney, Director of Design for Change USA.
While the Design for Change Ambassador team has implemented ideas to prevent other teen suicides in their community, the lessons and skills gained through the overall Design for Change methodology are intended to help countless other young adults build the empathy, grit, perseverance, and the confidence to resist suicidal thoughts, while creating positive changes in their lives and their communities.
"You don't know what is going on in a person's life. They might be depressed for something you have no idea about. You might think it's one thing, but it's something totally different. That's kind of what we learned during the empathy stage,” said Gage, a 12-year-old participating in the program.
This program, which is intended to give youth the tools and experiences needed to identify and solve a broad range of issues that are important to them, begins with young people observing and listing the issues in their community that bother them. They then interact with others in their community to identify points of intervention and possible solutions. Next, they develop and implement a plan of action, keeping in mind the available resources, budget, time, and skills. Finally, they share the story of change and inspire others to get involved or start their own project.
The decision for the Power2Change Foundation to partner with Design For Change USA was an easy one. “The global movement that Design for Change leads, is in complete alignment with our mission statement at P2C and we are proud to be able to support them in their efforts to empower young adults,” said Amy Schindler, Director of Operations for the Power2Change Foundation. In the end, teen suicide is truly everyone’s problem – one we can all help to turn around.