June 30, 2017
Gardner, MA -- The Montachusett Youth Suicide Prevention (YSP) group, formed by Heywood Hospital’s Zero Suicide Grant, has spent the past year collaborating with Jerry Beck and The Revolving Museum on a special public art project to support suicide prevention education, the creativity of young people, and beautification of downtown Gardner. Students from Gardner High School (GHS) and The Gardner Academy for Learning and Technology (GALT), participated in a hands-on process of creating a public art project – from idea initiation and planning to object making and installation.
Students learned how art and creativity can impact and communicate the theme of suicide in meaningful ways and promote healthy youth development and leadership skills. As a result of participating, students were able to analyze their own strengths, weaknesses, and have the confidence, motivation and abilities to express their ideas, feelings, thoughts and belief that they could create a healing and transformational artwork focused on the elimination of youth suicide.
The projects will be displayed at both Gardner Police Station and Bullnose Park in Gardner from July 1- August 10th.
The YSP works within GHS and GALT to create awareness and promote prevention in the community. Comprised of like-minded teens, the group works to provide information about youth suicide prevention in a safe, friendly environment. Working both with students and administration, the YSP works to shape the future of youth suicide prevention in the community by focusing on positive relations, safe talk, and creating a safe culture for peers.
Heywood Hospital, part of Heywood Healthcare, was chosen by the Department of Public Health and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) to receive the Garrett Lee Smith Zero Suicide Grant to implement change in the Healthcare system, under the logic “suicide is the most preventable type of death”. While implementing systemic changes throughout the healthcare system, it was decided by the Multidisciplinary Team to bring youth from the community on board to aide in outreach to their peers in suicide prevention efforts.
Six students from the community were brought on as Peer Leaders to help facilitate youth groups in the two high schools, focusing on youth suicide prevention, as well as working in group sessions on anxiety relief techniques, dealing with depression, bullying, and helping to build a strong support system for youth in need, before a crisis arises. The group has worked hard in the schools and in the community to raise awareness, and spread local, state, and national crisis intervention resources.
“I am inspired by the work these students have put in over the past year, freely giving their time, energy and creativity to this project,” said group facilitator Mike Valila. “By making themselves available to their peers, we have seen so many area youth come forward, share their stories and inspire each other. I can’t wait to see what these student leaders do in the future.”
The Peer Leaders from the YSP Group have worked for several months with Artist Jerry Beck from the Revolving Museum to create a Community Art Installation that will inspire hope, raise awareness, and deliver resources in our community to anyone who is suffering in crisis, or who needs help in assisting someone close to them through crisis.
“Art can save lives. It has the uncanny ability to educate, comfort, challenge, and inspire people both individually and collectively. The Revolving Museum creates opportunities for young people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities that are typically isolated from or undervalued by their community, to share their powerful vision with the public. I hope this youth-driven art project will bring renewed hope, healing, and love of life to all,” said Jerry Beck.
“We aim to spread awareness so that teens never get to the place where suicide comes to mind,” shared YSP member Eva Richards. “We started these projects in hopes that people would physically be able to feel life, which is the exact point of prevention. Take a good look, you'll notice that our lives are different, yet we still grow, and we're hoping other teenagers in the Greater Gardner area can see the light through the dark.”
For more information on the Youth Suicide Prevention Project, please visit www.suicidepreventiontaskforce.org/youth.
About Heywood Hospital
A member of the Heywood Healthcare system, Heywood Hospital is a 134-bed acute care hospital in Gardner, MA, which provides a broad range of high quality medical, surgical, obstetrical, pediatric and behavioral health services on an inpatient and outpatient basis. The hospital’s Centers of Excellence include the Watkins Center for Emergency and Acute Care; the LaChance Maternity Center; the Diabetes Center; and the Heywood Heart and Vascular Center, an affiliate of the Heart and Vascular Center of Excellence at UMass Memorial Health Care.
About Heywood Healthcare
Heywood Healthcare is an independent, community-owned healthcare system serving north central Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. It is comprised of Heywood Hospital, a non-profit, 134-bed acute-care hospital in Gardner, MA; Athol Hospital, a 25-bed not-for-profit, Critical Access Hospital in Athol, MA; the Quabbin Retreat in Petersham, MA; Heywood Medical Group with primary care physicians and specialists located throughout the region. The organization includes six satellite facilities in MA; Heywood Rehabilitation Center and Heywood Urgent Care in Gardner; West River Health Center in Orange; Winchendon Health Center and Murdock School-based Health Center in Winchendon; Heywood Charitable Foundation; the North Quabbin Community Coalition, an affiliate organization; and The Quabbin Retreat in Petersham.