NEWARK – The Worcester County Board of Education has bestowed its blessing upon a private youth suicide prevention program begun by two bereaved mothers.
“We are both survivor moms. Both of our sons died from suicide,” Kelly Green, co-founder of the Delmarva Chapter of the international Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, told the board Tuesday.
Green explained to the board that the Yellow Ribbon approach is not intended to fix the youth suicide problem, but, like CPR, the Yellow Ribbon card can bridge the gap and help get adolescents to professional treatment.
In order to reach county youth, the Yellow Ribbon program needs to go through the middle and high schools of Worcester County. Green and Melanie Welton plan to kick off the Yellow Ribbon program in the schools in October, which is Maryland Youth Suicide Prevention month.
The ‘yellow ribbon’ is actually a business-sized card which children and teenagers can hand over to any responsible adult or trusted peer to ask for help. Instructions for the helper, and the phrase, ‘It’s OK to ask for help,’ are printed on the card.
The card also carries youth crisis hotline numbers, including one for Spanish speakers.
The program, begun in Colorado in 1994, has spread across the nation and into other countries and to date has reportedly saved 2,500 lives.
The only other Yellow Ribbon chapter on the shore was begun three years ago by the Talbot County school system, which counts 15 lives saved since.
Green realized after her 12-year-old son Darron’s death in 1998 that many children are just not taught how to ask for help when they are in emotional pain or distress, and the card gives them a way to communicate their need. Suicidal kids, said Green, do not necessarily want to die. They simply want the pain to stop.
The Delmarva Yellow Ribbon effort is entirely privately funded, Green said. Cards will be distributed free of charge.
“It sounds like a wonderful program. Is there anything we can do to help?” said Board of Education President Gary Mumford.
All the program needs from the board is general support and a proclamation in October, Green said.
The group is also offering training for people who work with youth and any other interested adult on how to respond when a child or teen uses their Yellow Ribbon card.
“We need to educate the adults in this entire community,” said Welton, who lost her 16-year-old son Randy to suicide in 2006.