In only four months between June and October 2010, four young people on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Toppenish, Washington committed suicide. According to the 2010 Healthy Youth Survey, 22 percent of the students at Mt. Adams Middle School and White Swan High School, both located in the city of White Swan on the reservation, reported they had seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, stated a press release from the Washington State Office of the Attorney General.
The youth-lead suicide prevention team White Swan Dream Makers, compelled both by personal loss and the dire rate of suicide within their small community, modeled their project after a publication developed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The 172-page publication, “To Live to See the Great Day that Dawns: Preventing Suicide by American Indian and Alaska Native Youth and Young Adults,” advised developing a suicide prevention planning team, training youth, selecting educational materials and making presentations.
Dream Makers participants decorated their schools with little notes, such as, “I’m glad you’re here. You’re special.” Since the team launched its project efforts in fall 2010, White Swan has lost no more kids to suicide.
For their initiative, powerful resonance and results, the White Swan Dream Makers won the grand prize, including $4,000 in scholarship assistance, at the Spring Youth Forum, presented by the Washington Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery and the Attorney General’s Office, on May 19 at the Great Wolf Conference Center in Grand Mound, Washington.
The prevention team will now have the opportunity to travel to one of the three annual Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America national leadership training events in Anaheim, California, or Washington, DC.
At last week’s forum, 42 different youth prevention teams showcased their projects, aimed at discouraging underage drinking to discouraging bullying to preventing tobacco use and more. The teams were judged by their peers and adult volunteers, who scored presentations based on five categories: innovation, sustainability, impact, presentation style/professionalism and collaboration/partnerships.
The star of the MTV series “Made,” Julie Marie Carrier, national youth speaker and teen success coach, offered the teams inspirational guidance in her keynote speech. Miss Washington Jacquie Brown told the students and attendees her compelling personal journey as a homeless youth from an abusive home who made her way to 3rd runner-up in the Miss America Scholarship Pageant.
The Spring Youth Forum is funded by about $800,000 from the Attorney General’s Office secured through consumer protection settlements with drug companies to help fund prevention programs. “These young adults put the money to great use, developing multimedia spectacles with positive, persuasive messages,” Office of the Attorney General Rob McKenna said.