Our goal is to raise $5,000. Here's how we plan to use it.
1. It will help us sponsor and host activities and events throughout Johnston and into the greater Des Moines area. We believe that the best way to confront this issue is with the help of other, more-established, nonprofits in the community whose goals align with our own. Through combining our efforts and resources, we will yield better results and spread our message to a much broader audience.
2. It will help us bring external experts into the community. Among our other key goals is the desire to put Johnston on the map, so to speak. We believe that in order to fully understand the severity of the matter, students (and adults) need to be exposed to the teachings and words of experts who have dealt with depression and suicide prevention for decades.
3. It will help us create a fund for those who have struggled and/or have helped others who are struggling. It's not an easy thing to go through depression, and it's an even harder thing to come forward and talk about it. We are establishing a scholarship that will be awarded to a number of seniors who have exemplified the characteristics that we believe are essential to normalizing the conversation.
4. It will help us explore uncharted territories. We believe that mental health should be taught at an age much earlier than it is today. We will do everything in our capacity to work with the Johnston Community School District teachers, administrators, and staff to work towards a more open environment from first grade onwards. We will also continue to support existing programs like Sources of Strength, and Students for Change. Students For Change is an evidence-based program that has proven to be effective in helping address suicide awareness and mental health advocacy. The American Journal of Public Health reported that Sources of Strength has (a) increased youth-adult connectedness; (b) improved the number of peer leaders in larger schools, which led to them being four times more likely to refer a suicidal friend to an adult; and (c) increased positive perceptions of adult support for suicidal youth and the acceptability of seeking help.
Sources of Strength is an intensive first suicide prevention training program that involves peer leaders to learn how to better address signs of suicidal thoughts in both themselves and their friends. The district had its first training session for students in December of 2017 and it was a massive success, with over 70 participants. The funding for this is not permanent however, and we would like to fund this program for years to come.
Additionally, Sources of Strength established a student group called Students for Change, that has active chapters in both the high school and middle school. These groups help take the information they learned in the session and apply it consistently throughout the school year. They need money for supplies, events, and other activities related to mental health and suicide awareness. We would like to provide funds for them as well.