February 01, 2012 - By Joe St. Henry
Recognizing the importance of engaging young people in the development of a long-term suicide prevention program, the North Oakland Community Coalition (NOCC) has scheduled a series of roundtable discussions with them this month.
"Kids have insisted on being included in this process, so now is the time for them to speak up," said NOCC Director Julie Brenner. "We're listening."
The first meeting, geared toward college age, 18-25 year-old young adults is scheduled on Saturday, Feb. 18, from 1-3 p.m., at the Orion Township Board Room, 2525 Joslyn Road. A second gathering for middle school students is scheduled on Wednesday, Feb. 22, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the Orion Township Public Library, 825 Joslyn Road. A third meeting with high school students is set for Thursday, Feb. 23, from 7-9 p.m., also at the library.
Information gathered during the sessions with the youth will be presented during a parent/adult roundtable on Thursday, March 1, from 7-9 p.m., at the library. A report to the community will be presented later that month.
Invitations to participate in the roundtable discussions were distributed to some 2,000 people on the NOCC e-mail list and posted on Facebook. In addition, notices were distributed to local church youth groups and schools, in hopes of attracting students.
Brenner said it would be ideal to have 50-60 people in each meeting. Participants will be split into small groups and be led through a guided discussion by a facilitator.
"All students and young people are affected in some way by suicide," Brenner said. "We're hoping for a diverse group at these meetings. We want all kinds of different kids."
Brenner said within hours of her invitations being distributed on January 27, she received a number of responses from people interested in participating, which was very encouraging.
NOCC is partnering with Common Ground, the Oakland County Health Department, Oakland Family Services, the Community Mental Health Authority and Lake Orion Community Schools to plan and host the meetings.
Brenner said the roundtable meetings and the input received are just the next step for the NOCC and Lake Orion community in developing a proactive, long-term and sustainable plan for helping address the rash of youth suicides over the past few years.
"This will be a living document that provides our students, recent graduates,parents and other members of our community with tools and resources for helping at-risk persons," Brenner said.
The goal is to have these various audiences work together to develop a supportive environment for youth with suicidal feelings to seek help.
Oakland County officials are well aware of the tragedies in Lake Orion, Brenner said, and they want to use the program developed by the NOCC and others as a blueprint for all communities in the area.
The county health department has dedicated two professionals to work with the NOCC, schools and others in the community to develop and execute the plan here, the director added.
Persons interested in participating in one of the roundtable meetings must pre-register by visiting northoaklandcoalition.org. Those having questions should call 248-520-3786.