By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Support continues to grow for those in need as suicide prevention efforts continue in the tight-knit Camanche community.
Local support group Speak Out Against Suicide will be reaching out to parents and families throughout the area with a special event, “Breaking the Silence,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. March 26 at Camanche High School.
This event will offer parents and families crucial information through the Yellow Ribbon Program that was previously presented to Camanche High School students last fall. Representatives from Bridgeview Community Health Services and Social Services will also be on hand to inform families about the resources available.
“This is an urgent message to get out to all the communities,” Organizer Nikki Carber said. “It’s something we need to start talking about it and realizing it’s a reality.”
The Yellow Ribbon program was founded in 1994 by the parents and friends of a teen in Colorado, Mike Emme, who took his life. This program is dedicated to preventing suicide and attempts by making suicide prevention accessible to everyone and removing barriers to help by empowering individuals and communities through leadership, awareness and education; and by collaborating and partnering with support networks to reduce stigma and help save lives, according to the organization’s website.
Not many parents have such a deep understanding of the tragedy of suicide as do Brad and Dawn Knutson, founders of the Eastern Iowa Chapter and presenters for the Camanche event.
About 13 years ago, the couple experienced the event first hand, when their son, Jeff, took his own life at the age of 16. The two felt compelled to help others and started the local Yellow Ribbon chapter in 2000.
Since then, they have given at least 500 presentations, going wherever they are needed, from Des Moines to Chicago.
The city has addressed suicide in the community with the help of the Speak Out and Bridgeview’s TeenScreen program. Residents have taken the pledge against suicide and found support for their grief through Speak Out and more than 90 Camanche Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders received permission from their parents to undergo the screening program to identify risk factors for the problem.
After the national TeenScreen Program was shut down, Bridgeview specialists worked to develop a new and similar screening program to address the issue. The new program, Bridgeview Health Survey, was implemented in mid-January.
Despite the closure of the original program, the new screening allows more of a customizable approach. United Way will continue to fund the program through the end of the school year and plans are in the works for the MJL Foundation to fund the new screening for the following school year. So far, 31 students have been screened through Bridgeview Health Survey.
“I like the thoroughness of the new tool, it addresses behaviors that weren’t in TeenScreen, like bullying, eating disorders and self-harm,” Jocelyn Meyer with Bridgeview said. “It opens up the opportunity to discuss these issues further.”
Meyer also has been working with several local pastors to organize a suicide prevention night at Ashford University Field this summer.
Speak Out hosts a support group called, “Let the Healing Begin,” that meets every third Sunday at 2 p.m. at Garner Hall in Camanche. The group is open to any and all people dealing with suicide or depression-related problems.