GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Suicide awareness is growing on a national scale after tragedies like the Sandy Hook shooting. But FOX 17 started talking about the issue with you more than a year ago.
In May of 2012, the Mental Health Foundation said suicide was the second leading cause of death among teenagers in Kent County behind accidents.
This year, according to the foundation, there are no reports of suicide for people 18 and under in Kent County.
Christy Buck, the Executive Director at the Mental Health Foundation, said the reason suicides among teens are down in Kent County is because the foundation is teaching young kids to talk about mental health.
Buck said, “I just spoke with a parent today who called me about his daughter and I know we are making a difference.”
The results speak for themselves. In 2012 five high-school-aged student in Kent County died from suicide.
Buck said so far this year, “We’ve had zero deaths by suicide of 18 and under.”
Buck is also the person behind the ‘Be nice.’ campaign. It’s designed to get inside schools to fight bullying and mental health issues at the same time.
In 2012, the ‘Be nice.’ campaign was in nine schools. This year the campaign was supported by 26 schools.
“When you get your own kids to make the movement, it is so much more impactful,” said Buck.
Matt Carpenter, a recent graduate of Grandville High School, learned the ‘Be nice.’ campaign in 8th grade.
But it didn’t make an impression on him until his best friend committed suicide during his freshman year. His death sent Carpenter into a depression.
“It was getting really, really bad and I couldn’t pull myself out of it and I didn’t realize that I needed the help,” Carpenter said.
Carpenter said the hardest part for him was accepting the help.
“If it wasn’t so socially taboo to talk about it it would have been a lot easier because it’s one of those things that you are not supposed to talk about,” said Carpenter.
But he learned quickly what talking to professionals in mental health treatment can do, “I could feel the change at the end of the day. I could feel myself getting better.”
Now, he’s graduated and will be heading to college in the fall. Buck said she expects to tackle that age group next.
“Our graduating seniors, are you going to step it up and try to do something at the university level? Because again we know that suicide is the second leading cause of death among college students,” said Buck.
If you or someone you know is in need of help in the West Michigan area, please contact the Mental Health Foundation.