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Cedar Rapids advocacy center equipping community with tools to fight suicide rates among teens

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) — September is National Suicide Prevention Month and the Grace C Mae Advocacy Center is helping the community to react, by holding a teen’s mental health first aid class this week.

According to Foundation 2, a local crisis prevention agency, suicide in teens has increased by almost 200% since the 1960s. However, only 17% for adults.

Now, the advocacy center is trying to help the community be on the lookout for warning signs.

It’s a subject near and dear to Executive Director, Patricia Gilbaugh’s heart after her own son struggled with his mental health.

“Please just assume they’re impulsive enough if they’ve put enough thought into it to have a plan,” said Gilbaugh during the training.

From sudden mood and behavior changes to mending broken relationships, Gilbaugh is teaching an intensive small class specifically focused on helping teenagers.

“There are some hormonal influences, there are some developmental stages, brain biology is different for teens and youth,” said Gilbaugh.

This year, suicide is the second leading cause of death for Iowans ages 15-34 according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Andi Albert decided to get equipped with tools to combat mental health crisis’ after losing her son.

“I lost my son Noah, January 31st of this year. He was 16. He suffered from mental health issues for 12 years,” said Albert.

“The latest Iowa youth survey showing that 1 out of every 10 youth has had a plan for suicide in the last 12 months. That’s a lot of kids that are dealing with depression, loneliness, exclusion,” said Gilbaugh.

However, there is hope and it can come in the form of just one person, reaching out to listen and show they care.

Gilbaugh says she sees it with patients, “If one person would just be nice to me today or if one person smiled at me, I wouldn’t take my life today.”

The class teaches the ALGEE action plan and the proper way to de-escalate a teen in crisis.

“You know, I have people who reach out to me quite a lot now since Noah’s passing, so I felt like this is something I needed to have in my tool kit to better help them,” said Albert.

There are both national and local hotline numbers you can call if you’re having thoughts of suicide or need someone to talk to.

For the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, call 1-800-273-8255.

For Foundations 2’s local crisis response team call 1-800-332-4224.

Gilbaugh also recommends a texting hotline. Simply text ‘home to ‘741-741’ to get connected to a crisis counselor.

The Grace C Mae Advocacy Center is currently working to get a family care center, called Haven of Grace opened.

Gilbaugh envisions it to be a place families can bring their teenager to seek care, retreat and rest.

For more information about the Center, Haven of Grace, visit their website.

To find a mental health first aid class, reach out to Grace C Mae Advocacy Center or use the national website for a location near you.

Author Profile Photo

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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