takes proactive stand
Suicide in youth is preventable
ENGLISH BURNETT PHOTOS
LEFT: Dr. John Mehrle, superintendent of South Ripley schools,
introduced Joni Irwin, who spoke on the epidemic of suicide
among youth today. The professional speaker spoke to the
teachers (pictured below) for nearly two hours as she told
her own personal story, and then gave staggering statistics
on suicide among young people.
suicide is the silent epidemic that is claiming 100 young people
each week in our nation.
Statistics such as this were presented by Joni Irwin, a representative
of The Jason Foundation Inc. (TJFI), at an in-service for South
Ripley teachers on Monday, January 3.
Irwins personal experiences were riveting as she told about
her sons attempted suicide and then the ordeal that nearly
claim her own life.
Those who are college age who have the highest occurrence of suicide
are freshmen in the second semester.
Irwins son fit that category, but she never thought about
it. A mother who raised four children with solid values said she
could talk to her children about anything, and did. Except suicide.
It never crossed my mind to talk to my kids about suicide,
A call came in that Irwin said she would never forget. In that
call, she would learn her son was hospitalized for attempting
suicide. She traveled to the hospital thinking its
not my son.
A few minutes later she would enter the hospital room to see a
set of boots - her sons. Then she saw him, hooked up to
everything, not knowing if he would live or die. The look in Irwins
sons eyes made her vow she would do everything in her power
to keep others from being in the same situation. We were
fortunate, our son didnt die, she said.
Almost three years to the month of her sons attempted suicide,
Irwin found herself in the same situation. I didnt
want to live, she said. Holding a cell phone in one hand
and a gun in the other, Irwin knows what its like to be
at the brink of suicide.
Irwin described her life as the dream life with a
good family - stable environment in a rural setting. But, after
25 years of marriage, her husband left. She was shattered.
Thankfully, Irwin used the cell phone and was saved. She has a
sincere passion for helping others - especially youth - before
they cross the line and take their own life.
The Jason Foundation Inc. (TJFI) was established after Jason Flatt,
a 16-year-old from Hendersonville, TN, took his life.
The JFI is dedicated to the prevention of the silent epidemic
of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs that
equip young people, educators/youth workers and parents with the
tools and resources to help identify and assist at-risk youth.
At the invitation of South Ripley Superintendent Dr. John Mehrle,
Irwin spoke to the staff at South Ripley giving an overview of
the prevention program. While the program promotes the triangle
of prevention being through students, parents and teachers, Irwin
said the sad truth is the parents are the last to know if a young
person is contemplating suicide.
A high percentage of teens said they would talk with a trusted
teacher or coach. Knowing many times the teachers and coaches
are on the first line of defense in this war on our youth, Irwin
praised the proactive stand South Ripley had taken by having her
speak. Most schools are reactive, Irwin noted, as
she spoke of an incident at a Greensburg school last year where
a student committed suicide.
Irwin has a bill before the Senate this year that would require
mandatory training for educators concerning suicide prevention.
The Jason Foundation Inc., is now recognized in all 50 states
and 10 countries. Irwin said her employer, Valle Vista Mental
Health, Greenwood, pays for her to travel the state and give presentations
on suicide prevention.
Knowing that suicide is now the second leading cause of death
among youth ages 10-24, Irvin believes the time is now to get
serious about this serious problem that is preventable.
She urged the educators to learn the signs and know what to do
The Jason Foundation Inc. offers a parent resource program and
parent seminars, in addition to the staff development training
seminars for schools. Irwin told The Versailles Republican she
is available to speak at organizations. She can be contacted by
calling 317-501-1737 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Irwins
information is priceless- literally. There is no charge for the
presentations she gives.
Education is the key to prevention, Irwin passionately
stated. She said four out of five youth give clear warning signs
before committing suicide. Some signs of concern include: depression,
abrupt changes in behavior, mood swings, changes in school performance,
giving away treasured belongings and saying good-bye.
While the staggering count of 100 youth suicides weekly is overwhelming
- Irwin brings it home, saying, one is too many.
When some people say teens just want attention by saying they
are going to commit suicide, Irwin says adults should look at
it as a cry for help. Irwin told how one teen who attempted suicide
said, I didnt want to die - I just wanted the pain
She cited bullying as a huge factor in youth suicides. The
bullying that is going on is unbelievable, she noted. She
said with Facebook and cell phones, the youth of today are facing
a whole different set of rules.
Irwin urged those present at the assembly to understand that suicide
knows no boundaries - kids (who commit suicide) dont look
Dr. Mehrle hopes to partner with The Jason Foundation Inc. and
use some of its preventive oriented curriculum that might help
students in appropriate high school classes. The Jason Foundation
offers a free school-based curriculum unit designed for grades
The issue of teen bullying and related teen suicide is a
national problem. We are trying to implement programs such as
our student mentoring program that will serve to reduce problems
that may exist, noted Dr. Mehrle. He continued, My
sincere desire is for each and every student who enters our school
doors to feel they are safe and always have an adult or mentor
to whom they can turn. He said the Monday session is part
of an ongoing effort. Earlier in the school year all three building
principals in-serviced faculty members on the schools bullying
and sexual harassment policies. Current policies are being reviewed.
Most student convocations dealing with bullying are also
being explored, Dr. Mehrle shared.
Dr. Mehrle told The Versailles Republican, We are blessed
to have a community based school corporation where we know our
students. We have dedicated teachers, principals, and support
staff who truly care about our students.
The superintendent said, Unfortunately, however, even we
at South Ripley are not immune to the problem of bullying and
we need to make every pro-active effort possible to create a safe
environment for all of our students.