Suicide – especially as it devastates young people and their families – has been identified as an epidemic in the United States, and South Dakota and the local area are not immune to the emergency. The World Health Organization estimates that worldwide more than 264 million people are affected by depression, and according to the South Dakota Department of Health, one in five teens and young adults lives with a mental health issue.
In an effort to recognize and address this health crisis, the Brookings Rotary Club sponsored two half-day training workshops for Brookings School District faculty and staff to help educators identify signs and learn response techniques. Nearly 60 educators participated.
The “safeTALK” training was presented by Minneapolis-based Glen Bloomstrom, Director of Faith Community Engagement at Living Works Education, Inc. The two workshops were offered to Brookings teachers and staff – about 30 participants in each session - during their Professional Development Day on October 6.
“The safeTALK presentation is a skill-based session, designed to teach people to recognize that thoughts of suicide might be present, and how to refer them to those who can help prevent a tragedy,” said Bloomstrom, who customized the October 6 workshops specifically to educators. He also has trained agriculturalists, clergy, and military. The goal of safeTALK is not to train all educators as mental health professionals, but rather outline how to recognize a vulnerable child. “Safety is our focus. We outline how to get help, have a plan, and get other people involved. Participants practice skills before they leave the room.”
Brookings School Superintendent Dr. Summer Schultz is grateful for the opportunity for her faculty and staff and appreciates the collaboration with Rotary. “We are committed to enhancing our ability to recognize and address mental health emergencies within our district, and these safeTALK workshops are another important piece of the education our educators can use to help keep our students safe,” said Schultz. “We thank the Rotary Club for selecting us as the recipient of this granted project and appreciate our partnership with them.”
Half of the $5,000 training was funded by the Brookings Rotary Club, matched by Rotary District 5610 grant monies. Local Club President Dr. Michael Gonda noted that this was an opportunity for a local Rotary club to address, on a local level, two of the seven pillars of international Rotary focus: saving mothers and children, and supporting education.
“Our local Rotary club is noted for its community service, but we also are quite active in global initiatives supported by Rotary International (RI), such as the continued goal of polio eradication, emergency support for Ukrainian war victims, and tuition support for a student in Africa.” In addition, Rotary International President R. Gordon R. McInally, of Scotland, has identified mental health as another priority for his 2023-24 term in office.
“This is another way we can tie together our passion for local ‘Service Above Self” through a project that clearly is important to our community and also fits in well with RI’s mission,” said Gonda. “It is an honor for our club to have sponsored these workshops in support of our local school district and the children it serves.”
Trainer Glen Bloomstrom, of Minneapolis, with Living Works Education, presented two half-day “safeTALK” suicide awareness and prevention training sessions to faculty and staff at the Brookings School District Professional Development Day. The training sessions were funded by the Brookings Rotary Club and a grant from Rotary District 5610.
Two packed training sessions on suicide awareness and prevention were part of last Friday’s Brookings School District Professional Development Day. Nearly sixty educators participated in the “safeTALK” training, sponsored by the Brookings Rotary Club.