Posters at bus shelters, public service announcements and a website marked the County’s new campaign to curb teen suicide and drug abuse.
The public education campaign, entitled “BTheOne,” launched Oct. 19.
“Suicide and substance abuse are not the answer,” County Executive Ike Leggett said during the brief opening event. “Far too many teens believe it is, and the results are tragic.”
In a press release marking the event, Leggett said, “As a parent and a grandparent, I know that teens today face many pressures – to do well in school, to fit in socially, to figure out what they want to do when they ‘grow up’.”
“We want teens and their friends, families and other adults in their lives to know that help is available.”
The website, www.BTheOne.org, includes information about drug abuse and suicide. There also is a 24-hour crisis center that can be reached by calling 240-777-4000.
The new website instructs friends and loved ones of people suspected to be in distress to follow five steps to help:
- Ask them if they are contemplating suicide.
- Keep them safe.
- Be there for them
- Help them connect to the many services offered by the County and area non-profit organizations
- Follow up with them.
Susan Rosenstock, whose son Evan died by suicide when he was a sophomore in high school, called losing her son “a catastrophe.” At the launch she said, “Our message is one of hope, health and strength.”
Following the event, the Potomac mother stressed the importance of communication, education and motivation.
Rosenstock explained that she speaks out and runs a UMTTR (you matter) Facebook page to continue her son’s legacy.
He died four years ago, and “I’ve got to tell you, it doesn’t get easier. It gets different, but it doesn’t get easier,” she said.
Talking about it reduces the stigma that depression and other mental health issues are the person’s fault and need to be kept quiet, she said. “Spreading the message, it’s going to be a conversation starter.”
To know if your child is just sad or very depressed, “You have to ask. Anything that can be done to open the dialogue and really reduce the stigma” is helpful, Rosenstock said.
August Balderson, a 19-year-old Gaithersburg resident in recovery from substance abuse, briefly addressed the audience, noting, “The most important thing is to have support” from family and friends. “Only through that support you can get from peers and family can you get that help.”
Dr. Jonathan Brice, Montgomery County Public Schools associate superintendent, called BTheOne “critically important,” and said the schools strive to teach students to have the courage to stand up and help one another.
BTheOne public service posters and flyers will be distributed in school health rooms and guidance offices as well as throughout the community.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age youth. In Maryland, 26 percent of high school students reported having at least one drink of alcohol in the last month and 32 percent of high school students reported that they have used marijuana one or more times, according to Raymond Crowel, chief of Behavioral Health and Crisis Services in Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services.
“We want our young men and women to understand what they can do to for a friend who is struggling with drugs, or considering suicide,” said Crowel. “To not be afraid to take actions that may help to save a life. And to know that there will be someone there to help.