May is Mental Health Month: please support Forefront in Shoreline Schools

Monday, May 7, 2018

By Lisa Surowiec

Last summer, an extraordinary thing happened.

On the evening of July 17, parents from Shorewood and Shorecrest, and a representative from the City of Shoreline, met with two women with Forefront in Schools to talk about bringing a suicide prevention program into Shoreline Schools.

Leading up to this meeting, parents met with administrators from both high schools and secured support for it, if funding were in place.

If you've ever tried to introduce a program into a school, you know what a heavy lift this is - building administrators are rightfully, if sometimes frustratingly, fiercely protective of their staff and will not commit to programming lightly.

Armed with the knowledge of that support, this group came together - all having different reasons for wanting to press forward. What this group knows:
  • Shoreline mirrors the National average of teenagers self-identifying as depressed - 20% of our kids fall into this category
  • Suicide is preventable, and talking about it reduces the likelihood of death by suicide, but...
  • Most of us don't know how to recognize the signs, and don't know what to do with that information if we do
  • Safe storage of prescription drugs and guns significantly reduces the opportunity for an irreversible choice, but we need to talk about this and take it seriously as a community
  • Suicide can touch teens in many ways - as a personal struggle, in friends or classmates, in parents or family members, in neighbors or other community members, in teachers or other adult mentors

The timing was tight; Forefront works in cohorts of schools in 3-year programs which come up with plans, identify resources, train staff, train parents, and train students. They were unsure whether they would be starting another cohort the next year, and the stars were aligning for Shoreline to join this cohort.

After that meeting, there was still significant work to do to ensure the District's comfort with how a program like this would impact our school community. Ultimately, all levels of the district gave their approval, and a fundraising campaign launched.

The total investment in Forefront is $12,500 per school per year for those 3 years. With fantastic community support, Year One was funded, and $5000 seeded Year Two.

The idea behind Forefront is to provide a sustainable program that remains in place after the three years of work are complete. Students, parents, counselors, teachers, and administrators train forward, creating a community network of resources. We will then have not only identified resources, but grown them from our own pool.

Over the last several months the Shoreline School District High Schools have met, discussed, identified some of the barriers, and praised the strengths of their community, both individually and at large. Both schools have done tremendous work on their individual and district crisis plans.

They have sat down individually and together and revised every page of their plan. Additionally, both have come together and discussed some of the barriers for families, such as community resources, with a huge parent voice echoing the need.

The teachers are also planning their LEARN training day. The administrators have been working on the policy piece; reviewing and revising the current policy to be more inclusive of suicide prevention, continued education for their staff, and supportive wording. Moving forward, they will be working on completing a draft of their crisis plan, policy, and trainings.

In March, both schools were involved in a community Parent Night to teach the LEARN curriculum to other parents. The room was packed, and there are plans to get a second event on the calendar.

May is Mental Health month, and during this month, we have a donor match to increase your impact!

Forefront in the Schools is excited that there’s not just one, but two opportunities, to stretch your support through a pool of matching funds.

An anonymous donor from Shoreline’s community recognizes that Forefront is not just bringing tools and resources to help Shoreline high schools develop a comprehensive suicide prevention and mental health program, but it is also working to bring the entire community together to transform the conversation around these issues.

Our generous donor will match gifts from Shoreline supporters dollar-for-dollar up to $20,000. In order to access this match, you must give by June 1, 2018.

In addition to the Shoreline match, we have an anonymous donor who will match all gifts by 50% received by June 30, 2018. Your gift will generate additional funds to support the entire cohort. Please consider making a contribution today to take advantage of both matching opportunities to increase your gift by 150%!

With your support, together we can foster a world that openly addresses suicide and mental health with compassion and where every individual acts on their capacity to prevent suicide.

Please make a gift today or send a check, payable to the UW Foundation, to UW School of Social Work, Advancement Office, Box 354900, Seattle, WA 98195. In the memo section of the check please write: Forefront in the Schools Shoreline.

Read more about the program HERE

Donate directly to the program HERE

Follow Forefront in Shoreline Schools on Facebook for articles, resources, and updates: @ForefrontSWSC


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