On March 27th, Holyoke youth, community members, parents and others gathered in the Holyoke Health Center (HHC) to talk about the issue of teen suicide and depression in our city. Co-Sponsored by Holyoke Nights and the HHC’s Peer Health Advisory Board (PHAB), the event was called “We Are Listening” in an effort to highlight the community of resources and support systems that may otherwise be invisible to a hurting teen.
A completely youth led-event, “We Are Listening” was an idea of the Holyoke Nights youth planning committee after the loss of friend and former Holyoke Nights DJ Hector Ofray in December. The planning committee partnered with PHAB because of the HHC group’s expertise on health and mental health-related issues, and together the two groups envisioned an open forum for other youth to learn about suicide and depression, access community resources, and receive support and care from their peers. “We Are Listening” also received significant assistance from the Holyoke Equal Rights Association (HERA) in recognition that GLBTQ youth can be disproportionately at risk for suicide and depression.
Youth attendees arrived to a space adorned with affirming posters, declaring “You are Loved,” “You are Strong,” and “You Matter.” Participants were able to receive complimentary massages from a professional masseuse on site, speak with one of the two Holyoke Health Center counselors available for the event, lounge in the snuggle corner, or add to the Memory Wall in recognition of those they’d lost. PHAB put on an educational presentation about recognizing the signs of depression and suicide risk, how to respond, and who to contact. After a raffle of several self-care related prizes, including a journal, home spa kits, and two massage gift certificates, youth were able to participate in an open mic. Participants shared performance pieces and poems about the issues of suicide, loss, depression, and hope for the future.
The evening concluded with a showing of the family movie “Cyberbully,” in which a young woman attempts suicide after experiencing significant online and in person harassment from her peers. Attendees were able to take home resources about local mental health care, youth suicide risk, self-care activities and community programs. Holyoke Nights and PHAB were both thrilled with the turnout, and we all look forward to keeping the conversation about these important issues open and proactive going forward. Thanks to all who came out to support the youth of Holyoke on this important!
Resources: River Valley Counseling:
ServiceNet: (413) 592-5414 / (413) 585-1328
Local Crisis Line: (413) 536-2251
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1 (800) 273-TALK (8255) / www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org