Grant Us Hope program headed to Kettering schools

Kettering is the first school district in Montgomery County to implement the Grant Us Hope program, which promotes mental health wellness and prevention.

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Suicide deaths for Ohio’s children and young adults have increased dramatically from 2007 to 2017, Health Policy Institute of Ohio found in a report published in September. Suicide deaths have increased more than two-fold for ages 8 to 17 (35 deaths to 80 deaths) and by nearly 1.5 times for ages 18-25 (155 to 225 deaths) from 2007 to 2017. The youngest suicide victim from 2007 to 2017 was age 8.

The topic was front-and-center in the school district when a little over a month ago, a junior at Kettering Fairmont High School died following a suicide attempt.

Now, Kettering students are working to provide a ray of hope on the situation with the unique program.

Students will make up the school’s “Hope Squad,” which is a “school-based, peer-to-peer suicide prevention program for students that includes a specially designed curriculum that emphasizes suicide prevention fundamentals, self-care and anti-bullying.

MORE: Suicide, depression rates among teenagers growing

“We are in the beginning stages of establishing Hope Squads at Fairmont, Van Buren and Kettering Middle School,” said spokeswoman Kari Basso. “We are in the early stages of establishing this program.”

In addition to providing training for students, faculty, staff and community leaders, Hope Squads will also have trauma and re-acclimation coordinators. Coordinators will provide resources and guidance to those struggling with mental health problems.

Dr. Keith Kline, executive director of Grant Us Hope, works actively day-to-day with Hope Squad coordinators across Ohio. He said students feel more comfortable discussing their mental health with other young people.

“We know students talk to each other about their mental health and thoughts of suicide, but many times, they do not share what they know with an adult who can help,” Kline said. “Hope Squad members are trained to recognize signs, ask questions and work with their classmate to get them to the help they need.”

Grant Us Hope was founded in 2016 by Diana Egbers after her 15-year-old son, Grant, took his own life in 2015. Egbers then created the non-profit with the goal of bringing hope to other teens.

Diane Egbers, Grant’s mother and the driving force behind Grant Us Hope, is partnering with organizations to cultivate coordination among the people who can offer a student help.

“So far, we have discovered 27 different groups in this region that are working in mental health for teenagers, but not all of them are working together,” Egbers said. “All of them are doing good things but not having nearly the comprehensive and collaborative impact that we could have together, so we will be convening and encouraging all these organizations to collaborate.”

About 17 percent of U.S. high school students in 2017 said they had had seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months and 7.4 percent of students said they had attempted suicide, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

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