Community groups key on better crisis response
Community stakeholders have started taking a closer look at how to better respond to crises that affect students.
Representatives from five Central Alberta school divisions, Alberta Health Services, the Central Alberta Child and Familiy Services Authority, City of Red Deer and RCMP met Wednesday after six teen suicides in the Red Deer area in the past year.
The deaths were reported online by youth trying to bring awareness to suicide.
“Critical incidents” under discussion include student suicide, fires at home or school, vehicle collisions, threats at schools, and others.
Piet Langstraat, superintendent of Red Deer Public Schools, said the group is looking at services currently available and how well they are being used, issues that the organizations could work closer on and what other services could be provided.
He said there’s not necessarily more crises to respond to, but there is a growing pressure on services as Alberta’s population continues to grow.
When it comes to suicide, awareness of available services and how to access them is crucial, he said.
“We continue to have conversations around how do we ensure that students are aware of the supports in our community and how parents and families are aware,” Langstraat said.
Looking at the availability of counsellors to deal with a crisis that affects lots of people is an example of one of the issues that are on the table, he said.
Right now, high school students are taking the lead in the community when it comes to raising suicide awareness and prevention.
By coincidence, Grade 12 students at Notre Dame High School chose to raise money for Red Deer’s Suicide Information and Education Services for their annual Grad Service Project.
So far 34 teams each made up of students, a parent and staff member, have been holding fundraising events to try and raise $45,000.
Notre Dame student Tianna Therriault is one of 12 students who helped put together Winning for Willms, a hockey fundraiser in memory of Notre Dame student Kale Williams.
“We thought it was a good way for us to remember him and honour him,” Therriault said about her friend and hockey fan who died Feb. 10.
“It’s definitely been an extremely hard thing to get through and I feel like the game is something that creates a positive atmosphere. It will be fun and a hopeful, healing thing,” Therriault said.
Winning for Willms will be held Monday, starting at 7:45 p.m. at G.H. Dawe Arena, 56 Holt St. Admission is a $10 donation per person or $25 donation per family. Admission by donation is at the door only.
Some of the Red Deer Rebels and local AAA minor hockey players will be on the ice, along with anyone else who wants to lace up their skates and join the non-competitive, recreational game.
Therriault said after the recent suicides, lots of students are finally saying enough is enough.
“We want to try our best to make a difference in the best way that we can,” Therriault said.
Paul Mason, superintendent Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools, said efforts by Notre Dame students is about making others aware of who to reach out to and when.
Grads at Hunting Hills High School are also planning a bikeathon with proceeds going to suicide prevention. Grads at Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School are looking at hosting a similar event.
American teen motivational speaker Josh Shipp will also be coming to Red Deer on April 17 and 19.
Grade 8 Eastview Middle School teacher Monique Stennes-Koot and her son Jacob Stennes have so far raised $17,000 to bring in Shipp for the benefit of students.
“To have somebody of that calibre come to our community to speak to students and give that positive messaging and build up resiliency among students I think is a great thing,” Langstraat said.
He said it also speaks to how this community comes together to help support services that are required.
Originally, Shipp was scheduled for only one day, but the mother-son team were determined that more students see Shipp.
Last week Darcy and Janet Will, of Red Deer, donated enough money to help make that happen.
“We believe this is an important first step towards increasing awareness and education on the struggles facing young people and teen suicide,” Darcy Will said.
Donations are still being collected to purchase Shipp’s resource material for schools. Donations can be dropped off at Eastview Middle School, 3929 40th Ave.