Nets, corbels and youth suicide prevention
Idaho Press-Tribune - 4/7/2018
A Suicide Prevention Forum will be at 6 p.m., Tuesday, May 1, at Nampa High School. If you are interested, RSVP to Scott Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brenda Mattson at email@example.com.
Bear with me, I think I can connect these three topics. I have been struggling with a way to introduce a really important topic for the Nampa community to consider: youth suicide and prevention. Part of our challenge is that we don’t often choose to talk about this topic because it can be uncomfortable, and we may not know all that we need to know about it. However, it’s time that we have this conversation.
So let’s start with “nets.” Fishing nets to be exact. The kind that my uncle John had in his fishing boat when he took us out trolling at Big Creek Lakes in Colorado. Uncle John was the expert. Although my dad taught all four of us to bait, cast and tie our lines, it was Uncle John (my dad’s brother) who knew where to fish, when to fish and what bait or lure to use so that we never came home empty-handed. And unlike some fishermen, he shared all he knew with us.
One summer at Big Creek Lakes, my youngest brother Steve and I were the lucky ones to go out with Uncle John in the boat. As we were trolling, Steve’s line jerked, and we knew he had a fish on the hook. Uncle John cut the motor, Steve kept reeling and I sat feeling a tad bit jealous. As the reel and pole drew the fish closer to the boat, Steve, in his excitement, lifted the tip of the pole to try to “bring” the fish into the boat. As we watched the fish leave the water and come near the edge of the boat, it happened. The hook lost its grip, and the fish began to drop toward the water. Just before the fish hit the water, Uncle John scooped it with his net. Saved!
We spent some time discussing who actually caught the fish. Steve, who had tied the lure, set the hook and reeled it in, or Uncle John whose skill and anticipation netted the fish before it was able to swim away. Clearly, without the net, there was no fish, no picture of Steve and the largest catch of the day, no bragging rights and no trout for dinner. The net “saved” the fish as it was literally falling.
Nets catch things. Nets expand our reach and provide an emergency course of action. Our kids need us to be a net. As our youth deal with the complex issues they face, our community can learn to serve them well by becoming a purposeful, comprehensive net that is prepared to catch them if they need it.
Nets, however, are only worthwhile if they are without holes. Our “Nampa community net” needs to be complete, with multiple components that entwine to create a secure, safe place for our youth and children to land if they are in danger or trouble. Our net needs purposeful components at school, at home, in our places of worship, in our afterschool programs, in our youth sports organizations, in our daycares, in our neighborhoods, in our medical facilities, in our businesses and any other place where children and youth are likely to gather.
While Nampa can create that net, it is a safety feature, not the main event. Our students need support. I mentioned “corbels.” A corbel is a new vocabulary word for me. You know what it is, you just may not know what it is called. A corbel is a support. It is what the finish carpenter creates to “support” the granite overhang on an island in a kitchen. It is the support under a shelf that keeps the shelf from falling. The corbel strengthens whatever it is holding up. Our children and youth need “corbels.” A net is important; a corbel is essential.
How do we become a corbel for our students? We become a support when we are available, when we are capable of recognizing need and when we act on that need. When we see abuse, we call for help. When we see hunger, we access resources. When we see confusion and doubt, we listen. When we notice discouragement, depression, frustration or changes in routine, we ask questions. We don’t ask in judgment, we ask out of compassion and care. We don’t have to have all the answers, but our presence and willingness to engage are important.
Like an effective net, the support needs to be comprehensive. Support comes from our school resource officers, our pastors, our bishops, our youth leaders, our daycare providers, our neighbors, our senior citizens, our business community, our coaches, our teachers, our administrators, our mental health professionals, our medical providers and others.
Youth suicide awareness and prevention is a community initiative. It is NOT a K-12-only initiative. It is not a topic that we avoid speaking about. It is time for us to work together to strengthen and align the nets and corbels in our community in a comprehensive approach to suicide awareness and support.
Come join the conversation. In the next weeks and months, Nampa schools, in conjunction with multiple community partners, will work to provide opportunities for our community to join the conversation. Look for ways to come and learn, to come and participate and to come and plan with us.
The first opportunity is a Suicide Prevention Forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 1, at Nampa High School. If you are interested, please RSVP to Scott Parker at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brenda Mattson at email@example.com, demonstrating your willingness to participate in the conversation. Come be a net and a corbel.