Last summer, I spent three days in an intensive training to become an instructor in Youth Mental Health First Aid. Mental Health First Aid for youth and adolescents in emotional distress is a course that originated in Australia. The goal is to train 1,000,000 Mental Health First Aiders to gain the skills to provide comfort and care until professional help arrives, much like First Aid/CPR training. Here is a link to explore:
The story I want to share is about Megan, who sat at my table during this intensive 3-day training. Megan is a young teacher who on the surface seemed to not have a care in the world. That was the farthest from the truth. I was curious what prompted her to spend three summer days holed up in a school library. I soon found out that Megan’s sister, Sami died by suicide three summers ago after struggling with mental illness. Sami was 19 years old.
After Sami died, Megan and her mom Carolyn were driven to use their unimaginable grief to promote mental health education and suicide prevention in schools. Their sadness and disbelief have been channeled into a relentless quest to bring educational opportunities to school staff and community members through their Spread the Love Foundation. This grassroots movement has a simple mission: promoting honest dialogue about suicide, addiction, and mental illness.
“People always ask why. Why would a kid kill themselves? Why, when they had so much going for them? Why, when they were so young? Well, I’m here to tell you there is no answer to that. Suicide is not rational. There is no simple explanation. We shouldn’t be asking why. We should be asking how. How can we make a change? How can we, as a community, prevent this from happening again? How can we talk to our children about this taboo subject? How can we get our schools involved? This is a grassroots movement to educate children on how to live in the 21st century.”
Megan and Carolyn Coburn of Spread the Love Foundation supported the training of 10 new Youth Mental Health First Aid instructors. Eileen Gavin and I are two of the ten, and the only school nurses in the group. We are honored and humbled and dedicated to promoting this important work to honor the memory of Sami Coburn.