Mental health was the topic of a parent-teen wellness summit held by Jewish Family Services of Delaware and the Siegel Jewish Community Center Wednesday.
The wellness summit focused mainly on suicide awareness and prevention.
It was a response to several recent deaths by suicide of local teens, says Jewish Family Services of Delaware’s Basha Silverman.
“We need honest, raw conversation about what to do, how we’re feeling, and how to support one another,” said Silverman.
She noted the goal of the summit was to connect families and individuals to available help.
Among the recent suicides was that of 16-year old Sarah Segestrom, a member of the JCC community.
Segestrom’s death has made her friend, Sarah Hannig, an advocate for destigmatizing mental illness.
“The awkwardness and the uncomfortableness needs to end, and it needs to be able to be an open and comfortable conversation,” she said.
Hannig, who attended the event at the JCC Wednesday, emphasized the importance of trusted adults in which a teen struggling with mental health can confide.
Summit attendees split off into two groups. Parents and adults were presented a LifeLines program by the Mental Health Association, while teens participated in the Ending the Silence program with the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Delaware.
The groups then reconvened for a panel discussion with mental health professionals.
Leaders at the JCC and Jewish Family Services called the entire summit a "safe space."
Annie Greene presented at NAMI Delaware’s program for teens.
“I’m … a living example of someone who’s lived with mental illness and gone through the ups and downs and struggles of high school and came out the other side just fine,” they said. “Allowing other kids to feel hope because of my story is something that makes me feel better about my experience.”
Greene noted the majority of their healing happened after they came out to their parents about their struggles with mental illness, and were able to access professional counselling.
“Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” they said. “A lot of kids in highschool are too close to their problems to understand that once they get out of high school there’s much more opportunity out that door, and there are lots of resources available to them.”
Annie Slease, Director of Advocacy and Education at NAMI Delaware, says if you think someone you know might be considering suicide, act immediately.
“And always take it seriously. Even if they say they were just kidding, they said it, and it’s out there. So take it to heart and help,” she said. “If you ask them the question you won’t give them the idea, you’ll actually be reducing their risk because you’re letting them know that someone cares enough about them to ask, ‘Are you thinking of killing yourself?’”
The JCC’s Wendi Weingartner says she hopes Wednesday’s event is the first of many such discussions.
Nemours, Rockford Center and Umttr also participated in the event.
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.