STOW - "You Matter" on the sign in front of the city Town Hall is a message about mental health for everyone.
The phrase can be seen on T-shirts, wrist bands and cards to bring awareness to suicide prevention and provide help to those who think about ending their lives.
Mayor John Pribonic met with Stow-Munroe Falls High School students from Student Council and Happy, a group that prevents bullying and promotes happiness in the schools. The school is emphasizing the "You Matter" movement in December. Students received bracelets and a resource card. Beneath the two words "You Matter" are three phrases, "Speak Up. Speak Life. Prevent Suicide."
The students began working on a mental illness project a year ago, and this year they want to reduce the negative stigma of mental illness and bring awareness to the schools as well as the community.
Students ages 8 to 14 have a very high suicide rate and next semester, the high school students hope to spread the message to younger students in the district. A resource page is available on the school site.
On the back of the cards are phone numbers and text lines such as Support Hotline at 330-434-9144; National Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255; Trevor Hotline at 1-866-488-7386 for LGBTQ+ community and the emergency 911. Text lines include text 4 hope to 741741 and Trevor Text Line (LGBTQ+) text START to 678678. Another resource is suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Pribonic said every morning he looks at the police blotters and sees an average of one person trying to commit suicide per day.
"If we don't do something, shame on us," Pribonic said. "Hopefully, we can save a life."
Dec. 10 was the third Mental Health Awareness meeting and suicide prevention, and Pribonic said he wants the meetings to continue and spread the word not only to students but to parents, businesses and the community. The next Mental Health Awareness meeting is scheduled at 2 p.m. Jan. 7.
"We appreciate you [schools] kicking this program off," Pribonic said to the students and teachers. "We want to keep this momentum going."
Pribonic said the city will need to train employees, teachers and first responders so they know what to do.
Representatives from LifeAct, psi raising the power of education, Peg's Foundation, QPR – Question, Persuade and Refer, Greenleaf Family Center and Summit County ADM (Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services) were present to explain their services for mental health and training programs.
Pribonic said he wants to reach the public through many of events already scheduled in the city and schools by providing resources, speakers, and interaction. The Bulldog Bags can reach 600 families by including information, he said.
"We can be secondary [to an event] and still be impactful," Pribonic said.
Gannett reporter Laura Freeman can be reached at 330-541-9434 or firstname.lastname@example.org