‘Everyone can do something’: NEO holds suicide awareness event
NEO, a program of Bright Futures for Youth, is working to promote suicide awareness as more youth reach out seeking the support of the organization, according to Youth Outreach and Events Coordinator Lynn Skrukrud.
“(This time) has been very isolating for so many young people,” said Skrukrud. “Not only are there a lot of difficult things to cope with, in terms of a deadly disease and having to work from home, and political turmoil — but then the isolation on top of that.”
New Events & Opportunities hosted an event at the Nevada County Fairgrounds Monday and Tuesday, for middle school and high school students, respectively, to promote suicide prevention and support systems for youth.
Mike Bratton, whose family organizes the Michael Edward Bratton II Turkey Trot each year, was a guest speaker each day, and shared his personal experience with losing a family member to suicide.
The Turkey Trot fundraiser, normally held Thanksgiving morning at Nevada Union High School to benefit local organizations — among which NEO has been included in the past — supports youth and suicide and depression awareness. It was planned virtually this year due to the pandemic.
The NEO event also featured activities meant to reinforce the importance of remaining connected to the support systems in their life. Attendees created posters with messages that they would want to share with someone who was struggling with their mental health, said Skrukrud, and then walked around the fairgrounds holding the posters up, “so other people could see that message, and really just spread love and support that way.”
She said the final activity of the event, a “strength activity,” was meant to give attendees a positive visual aid. Initially, they received one wooden stick to write their name on, and were instructed to break it — an easy task. Then, they were to write on a handful of sticks the names of people in their lives who care about them, and in trying then to break the bundle, find how much more difficult it was.
“It’s really just to demonstrate to young people how important it is to have community, and have positive connections with people, and how it makes us all stronger,” said Skrukrud.
On the significance for NEO of this awareness event, Skrukrud said, “It’s something that really hit home for us this year, because there are young people who were a part of our program who are no longer with us. So we really wanted to take extra steps … to see what we can do to prevent further suicides.”
She said NEO, which is currently holding both in-person and virtual events for youth, aims to provide some of the additional support and space to socialize needed by youth during the pandemic. She added, however, “Look for those warning signs of depression and try to help young people in any way you can. I don’t think I can stress enough that everyone can do something to support people.”
Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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