By: Casey McLallen
J.P. Taravella’s DECA organization recently launched a county-wide community service project to encourage crisis prevention through texting among Broward County teens. The project, called “Here 2 Help,” promotes Crisis Text Line, a national non-profit organization that provides free mental health support 24/7 with trained Crisis Text Line Counselors.
Members of JPT DECA, a 380-member organization of students taking Marketing and Academy of Finance courses, presented the information to 3,200 students at the school, in addition to reaching a network of teens throughout social media.
Starting with an assembly reaching about 800 students, the group explained how Crisis Text Line works, and included guest speakers from Broward County Public Schools as well as the Coral Springs Fire Department.
Project leaders Samantha Kaye, Kevin Ward, and Spencer Gorelick led the assembly. They were joined by Broward County Student Services representatives, Dr. Charlene Grecsek and Ms. Faye Kravitz, who offered information to students about local school and county-based mental health resources.
In an emotional appeal, Coral Springs Fire Department’s Battalion Chief Stephanie Palmer delivered a moving presentation about suicide prevention as she encouraged students to seek help when they are in crisis. She described her own experiences and explained how, as a firefighter who responds to crises in the community, each suicide that she encounters is like “a rock in her pocket, which is a weight that becomes heavier and heavier with each suicide.” She added that “the only way to lessen that burden is by talking about it, and Crisis Text Line and similar services, can be great resources for doing just that.”
Student reaction to the message was extremely positive. One of the student attendees, Taravella senior Nicole Braida-Chernow said, “I think this project is a great idea and is spreading an important message. I hope people hear about this resource because they can use it to solve many serious issues.”
Taravella junior Maria Hernandez, reported, “I noticed a lot of my friends put it in their phones’ contacts. One of my friends, who has been feeling very stressed and anxious lately, already contacted Crisis Text Line and said that it really helped him feel less stressed,” she added.
To ensure that the message got through to all JP Taravella teens, teams of DECA members visited individual classrooms to explain Crisis Text Line, and hung posters and permanent signs throughout the school building, particularly in spots where teens in crisis tend to “hide out” – bathrooms and stairwells. DECA members also deployed a social media campaign to spread the word, offering incentives for sharing Crisis Text Line number via Twitter, which resulted in thousands of shares to the teens’ network of followers.
JPT DECA is also working with the School Board of Broward County to explore how teens from other schools can benefit from learning about Crisis Text Line and its services, which are free (standard texting rates apply), confidential, and can make a difference.
With an understanding of the benefits of Crisis Text Line, students may use it themselves, or share the number with a friend or family member in crisis; the results are that more people get the help they need, averting many of the sad outcomes that occur when people don’t know what to do. For more information on the Crisis Text Line, please visit their website at crisistextline.org. Readers can also learn more about JPT DECA’s Here 2 Help project by following them on social media: Twitter @JPT_H2H Instagram @jpt_h2h, and Snapchat @jpt_h2h.
Additional Efforts for Gaining More Support for Crisis Text Line
As DECA’s Here 2 Help project continues to generate awareness of Crisis Text Line, the non-profit organization will need more volunteers to become trained counselors to interact with texters. Crisis Text Line currently has a community of over 1,500 volunteer Crisis Counselors. In the next two years, the organization plans to grow to more than 4,000 Crisis Counselors, and JPT DECA is working to contribute to this goal.
The volunteer process includes filling out a 30-minute application, consenting to a background check, and completing a 34-hour online training session. Volunteers commit to help out four hours a week for one year. For those who are interested in becoming a volunteer or want more information on the volunteer process, go to the Crisis Text Line website or crisistextline.org/join-our-efforts/volunteer .