Decreasing depressive episodes and suicide attempts and completion are national goals in the HealthyPeople2020 plan and in the Health & Human Services Strategic Plan (https://www.hhs.gov/).
In Washington state, suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens 15 to 19 years old. According to the Washington Healthy Youth Survey (2018), 32% of eighth graders, 40% of 10th graders, and 41% of 12th graders felt so sad or hopeless for 2 weeks or more that they stopped doing their usual activities. 16% of 8th graders, 18% of 10th graders, and 18% of 12th graders reported making a suicide plan. (Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, https://www.k12.wa.us/ ).
Results from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey show that youth mental health outcomes have gotten worse. From 2008 to 2018, an overall increase of 33% of youth reported feeling hopeless, an increase of 35% of youth reported suicidal thoughts and an increase of 39% of youth reported having a suicide plan ( http://www.askhys.net/).
In Whatcom County, WA, Whatcom Family & Community Network (WFCN), through programming of Whatcom Prevention Coalition (WPS) shared lived experience of addressing and promoting youth mental wellbeing and suicide prevention. The M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. (Making a Difference – Helping Other People Everywhere) Youth Suicide Prevention program, a partnership with WFCN, Bellingham Public Schools, Whatcom County Health Department and WPC was created with youth to address youth mental wellbeing through peer to peer interaction. Across nine years, M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. has developed curriculum for middle and high school youth and community audiences. In our work, we believe that “Connection Saves Lives!” (www.madhope.org).
In 2019, WPC was selected as one of five national pilot sites for the National Council on Behavioral Health’s (NCBH) Connected! Project. Connected! Focuses on youth engagement to address youth mental wellbeing peer to peer. Three Whatcom County young adults serve at national youth influencers as WFCN works to better engage youth in breaking down stigma, and providing resources and supports, especially for underserved youth who identify with four target populations: Rural youth, Native American youth, LQBTQ+ Youth and Hispanic/Latina/o/x youth.
The WPC/ M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. and Connected Team share about the county-wide efforts: A series of community conversations on youth mental health issues; a trusted adult campaign; new partnerships to grow community capacity and find solutions to the need for mental wellbeing supports as well as innovative youth-led efforts in school and community settings that open up new opportunities for resilience and hope for youth.
In this session, they share the journey, so far, to increase resilience and hope for youth and families on mental wellbeing and to balance this national concern with hope.
Wil Henkel, one of three Connected! Project National Youth Influencers with the NCBH at the WFCN pilot site, is freshmen at Western Washington University hoping to earn a degree in psychology at Fairhaven College. He is a M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. trainer and consultant for Bellingham Public Schools for a peer-centered outreach/peer-centered support program that was innovated by himself and fellow student and M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. volunteer during their senior year at Sehome High School. Wil is a youth advocate for mental wellbeing and youth engagement.
Lisa Moulds, M.A. WFCN, Prevention Program Manager, co-chairs the Whatcom Prevention Coalition and manages the M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. Youth Suicide Prevention partnership. Lisa’s relationship based approach to building resilience in community stems from expertise in developing community partnerships between University staff, students and Whatcom County social services and school district as director of WWU’s Center for Service Learning for 10 years. Prior to joining WFCN in 2017, she worked in the fields of domestic violence prevention, community information and assistance, and as a program manager within Woodring College of Education at WWU. Lisa is mother to Jamie, a freshmen at Arizona State University, who recently made the life transition from home to college, but now back to home–studying online thanks to COVID-19.
Danielle Humphreys, Youth Suicide and Mental Wellbeing Specialist is a recent addition to the WFCN/ M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. team. Danielle joined the M.A.D.-H.O.P.E. in October 2019 and brings a background in working with diverse youth in faith-based and environmental service settings. Danielle is a trainer and program manager and understands the protective factors associated with increasing wellbeing in the lives of youth. She is mother to three elementary aged school aged children, adapting to being at home for school for the remainder of the school year.
Kristi Slette, M.Ed, is Executive Director at Whatcom Family & Community Network, a community capacity building nonprofit focused on promoting wellbeing and convening & supporting neighborhoods and communities to build their capacity so children, youth and families thrive. Kristi is a leader and educator in the local social services field for the past 25 years. She’s served WFCN since late 2015. She is a trainer on NEARH (Neurobiology, Epigenetics, Adverse and Positive Childhood Experiences, Resilience and Hope) Sciences. She taught Human Services at WWU for 15 years, served as director of training with Washington Campus Compact; director of youth and volunteer services with the Mt. Baker Chapter of the American Red Cross, director of the Retired and Senior Volunteer program with Whatcom Volunteer Center and brings expertise in leveraging relationships and resources to improve capacity toward solving complex community problems. Kristi is mom to two children, ages 14 and 16, who feel the stress of not being able to be with friends, miss playing the sports they love and are figuring out how to self-motivate for academics when technology offers more enticing content and connection.