“Depression is treatable.” “Listen, don’t judge and look for signs.” “Don’t be afraid to look for help—for yourself and others.” “Suicide is preventable.” These were some of the messages delivered by actor and writer Josh Rivedal during his 90 minute presentation to AHS students on Health and Safety Awareness Day this month. Mixing dramatization with straight talk, Mr. Rivedal shared personal stories of his youth, his father’s suicide and his own battle with depression and thoughts of taking his own life. The goal of his program is suicide prevention and mental wellness.
Organized by AHS Intervention Coordinator Andrea Razi six years ago, Health and Safety Awareness Day is designed to increase knowledge and decrease the stigma around mental illness and emotional struggles. Programs are designed so that students come away knowing who they might turn to in order to help themselves or a friend, and how to access professional resources.
This year’s theme of depression and suicide awareness is a recognition that suicide can happen anywhere. Suicide.org, a nonprofit awareness and prevention organization, reports that it is the third leading cause of death for young people between 15-24 years of age. Such deaths usually come about when someone is struggling with an illness that is treatable.
At times funny, at times moving, The Gospel According to Josh is designed to help young people understand the signs and symptoms of depression, to stress that it is acceptable to get both treatment and help, and to impart information about local and national resources. Thanks to a grant from the Arlington Education Foundation, this year’s program is more comprehensive than has been offered previously. Other components include staff training, a curriculum for the tenth grade, a presentation for parents at the 10th grade parent night in January and a presentation to parents and community members by Mr. Rivedal.
Programs like this one, which help our community have discussions about difficult topics, improve our understanding of the struggles some people face, and how we can work together to get assistance. For more information on Mr. Rivedal and his work in suicide prevention, please click here.
Arlington High School Mental Health Team wins Award
Each year the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention recognizes innovative work being done by school and community groups. Four awards are granted, with only one going to a high school. Intervention Coordinators Andrea Razi, Jess Klau and the rest of the Arlington High School Mental Health community received the Leadership Award, presented at the organization’s Annual Leadership Breakfast held on October 2013.
This well-deserved award honors work that has been done since 2006. That year Arlington was stunned by the suicide of an Arlington High School senior. With support from the Arlington Education Foundation, the Arlington Youth Health and Safety Coalition, the Arlington Youth Consultation Center, and the Arlington Police Department, AHS has worked to create a network of support services in the school and beyond.
This is an ongoing effort. Suicide prevention was the focus of this year’s Health and Safety Awareness Day at AHS.