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Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!

by Center for Health & Learning Vetted since 2017 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!
Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!

Many parents and caregivers wonder whether they should talk about suicide with their teenagers—and if so, what they should even say. Kerri Nickerson from SAMHSA’s Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) says that talking about suicide and mental health can actually help promote help-seeking and resilience among teenagers.

There are lots of benefits in engaging in these conversations. One benefit is that they build connectedness, which is a known protective factor against suicide. Connectedness refers to the number of meaningful relationships a teen has with caring adults, caregivers, or peers—people in their life who would take conversations about suicide and mental health seriously. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified connectedness as its strategic direction for addressing suicide.

Because suicide is complex, no one strategy will prevent all suicides. Instead, it’s important for communities, schools, health professionals, parents, and other loved ones of youth at risk for suicide to work together.

Schools are in a unique position to promote help-seeking and positive mental health of their students. One way some schools, and those working with schools, have done this is to use messaging that focuses on promoting hope and help-seeking. Stories about teenagers who were struggling and reached out for help successfully or a particular teenager who helped a friend in need can be really powerful. They can also counter the narrative that teenagers can’t do anything about suicide. Many teenagers encounter struggles in their lives—but stories of hope and resilience show that help is available and recovery is possible.

That is why programs such as Umatter for Schools and Umatter for Youth and Young Adults (Umatter YYA) are important resources within our communities.  Another recent deployment of the Umatter for Youth and Young Adults program just concluded.  Two local schools in Vermont gathered teams to implement the program with their students.  After training in the curriculum, the students worked over several months implementing projects within their schools.  A sampling of initiatives undertaken include:

  • Conducting a “Wellness Day” with workshops provided by over 12 community partners on topics such as positive psychology, careers in the mental health field, healthy eating and snacking, restorative justice and ending school violence, yoga, substance use, pet therapy, and mindfulness/awareness meditation.
  • Implementing a Capstone Project around Adolescent Depression and Suicide including a suicide prevention lesson plan that has become part of the mandatory freshman health curriculum. 
  • Distribution of Crisis Textline Posters and tear-off sheets throughout the school.
  • Production of a short student film which was posted to YouTube.

Some lessons learned from the training are reflected in comments students made after the training:

  • “Talk to someone you trust about how you feel.”
  • “It’s not wrong to feel sad – feel the sadness to move beyond.”
  • “Learn about others before you make judgments.”
  • Every challenge is an opportunity to grow stronger.”

Research indicates that programs that give people the tools to talk about suicide can reduce suicide. Programs that promote talking about mental health can save lives, especially when combined with other strategies -- but those programs must be sustained over time.

Our school and community partners in these implementations are eager to expand their work around positive mental health and wellness.   With YOUR help, we hope to continue to expand our reach into schools and communities with our Umatter Programs – which provide students the tools they need to navigate life’s challenges.  Please consider a recurring donation to provide long term support of this program.  Click on the "Give Now" button below.

To learn more about our upcoming Umatter trainings, click on PDF link to a training brochure below or visit our website at



The 2017-2018 Umatter for Youth and Young Adults Program (Umatter YYA) concluded on May 3, 2018 with a Culmination Event that brought back schools and community groups which participated in the program throughout the year.  

Umatter YYA is a youth leadership and engagement initiative which promotes mental health wellness: developing healthy coping mechanisms among youth and young adults, and increasing the ability to recognize when a peer needs help and how to provide it.

Over the past six months, school groups across Vermont 1) engaged in a day of interactive training with peers statewide, 2) participated in six short training sessions at their local school settings, and 3) designed and implemented a local Community Action Project around mental health promotion.  A total of 49 youth and 16 adult facilitators across nine different schools participated in the program this year. 

Examples of some of the Community Action Projects conducted include the following:

  • Mental Health Mondays
  • Reach Out Day
  • Health & Wellness Day
  • Community Dialogue Night

These events involved a variety of interactive activities, information materials, and community or peer speakers with a focus on de-stigmatizing mental heatlh challenges, connecting students across their social circles, and to identify top issues facing youth in Vermont. 

After completing the training, the majority of youth participants responded either "Very True for Me" or "Mostly True for Me" to the following statements:

  • I understand the difference between a Fixed and a Growth Mindset.
  • I am confident that I can identify strenghts in myself to help when I am feeling down.
  • I can recognize warning signs in a friend who is experiencing distress.
  • I know someone to go to when I or my friends are experiencing mental health challenges.

Youth participants created a poster "13 Ways to Promote Mental Health"  which can be viewed in attachment below.

To help us continue this important youth mental health initiative and increase our ability to expand to other school settings, please consider a recurring donation to provide long term support of this program. Click on the Give Now button below.

Umatter YYA workbook
Umatter YYA workbook

On May 3, 2018, school and community groups from across Vermont will attend a Culminating Event in Barre, VT as part of the 2017-18 Umatter for Youth and Young Adults (Umatter YYA) Initiative.

Umatter YYA is a youth leadership and engagement initiative which promotes mental health wellness: developing healthy coping mechanisms among youth and young adults, and increasing the ability to recognize when a peer needs help and how to provide it.

Over the past five months, nine school/community groups engaged in a day of interactive training with peers statewide, participated in short training sessions at the school setting, and participated in the design and implementation of a local Community Action Project.

The Culmination Event on May 3rd will bring the groups back together to receive additional training and to share their Community Action Projects.

Learn More About the Umatter YYA Program

Umatter teaches about distress and how to help
Umatter teaches about distress and how to help
One of the many CHL presentations in 2017
One of the many CHL presentations in 2017

Retrospective Fall / Winter 2017 at CHL

CHL has accomplished much in the past few months, and in 2017.  Here is a look back at some of our key programs. Along with those below, CHL also offered eight other face to face and online trainings to Substance Abuse Coalitions, Regional Prevention Partnerships, and school districts. Contact us for more information about our trainings and technical assistance!


A day in the life

Every day, CHL takes calls from community members seeking advice on prevention of critical health problems. On any given day, we might field a call from a young person wanting resources for prevention school health promotion project, a school counselor seeking advice about framing the discussion on opioid use to substance abuse at large, a woman in crisis who googled us and needs to be directed to local mental health supports, a county Sheriff who wants training on self-care for secondary trauma, a coalition director who wants assistance with strategic planning and evaluation, a state agency program manager wanting data to inform program planning, or a hospital administrator seeking resources for suicide prevention.

We answer all those calls and we are honored to be a resource in Vermont and New England.

Thanks to our funders, donors, and supporters more than 2500 people over the past year have benefitted from our services addressing critical health issues such as suicide; bullying and harassment; and alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and opioid addiction.  

Here are some examples of what we’ve been able to offer in the last few months of 2017:

Vermont Suicide Prevention Coalition

The VT Suicide Prevention Coalition, convened and facilitated by CHL, advises the VT Suicide Prevention Center, a public-private partnership. VTSPC provides resources to create communities of hope throughout Vermont in which schools, agencies and people of all ages have the knowledge, attitudes, skills and resources to respond effectively to mental health challenges and suicidal behavior.  The Coalition meets four times a year and consists of representatives from public health, education, state agencies, suicide prevention advocacy groups, youth and adult serving leadership, mental health services and survivors throughout the state.  The VTSPC has been a catalyst for change in the field of suicide prevention and education through its work with advocacy at the state level, policy, research, training and technical assistance.

Gun Shop Project

CHL had the honor to be invited to present to 50 attendees at two Gun Clubs.  Each presentation focused on the “Three Step” process for Suicide Prevention: Show you care, Ask about Suicide, and Get Help.  We distributed educational materials tailored to Gun Shops and their clients, and offered Gate Keeper training.  There was also discussion about a collaborative Legislative Day in January.  Attendees asked thoughtful questions and were appreciative of the information. These Clubs are a huge advocate for our Suicide Prevention work, and we hope to further build out this partnership

Umatter for Schools Youth Suicide Prevention Training

This two-day training, delivered to 30 school professionals in Vermont, is designed to help school communities respond to the mental health needs of students and prevent suicide. Once adults know suicidal warning signs and how to help, and the school has prevention and postvention protocols in place with local Mental Health providers, they will be ready to teach suicide prevention lessons using the Lifelines curriculum, an evidence based program of four lessons appropriate for Middle and High School students.

Umatter Youth and Young Adults

Umatter for Youth and Young Adults (Umatter YYA) is a youth mental health promotion leadership and engagement initiative that includes two full days of interactive training with peers statewide, short sessions at the school/ community setting, and design and implementation of Community Action Projects. Our December “kickoff” meeting brought together young people from around the state to participate in a day-long event. The focus of the event was on personal skills training and the process and design of local youth produced Community Action Projects.

Thank you so much for being with us, supporting us in 2017.  We’re looking forward to a productive and healthy 2018.

Umatter Youth and Young Adults
Umatter Youth and Young Adults
Umatter Youth and Young Adults
Umatter Youth and Young Adults
Umatter classroom that participated in the program
Umatter classroom that participated in the program

Hello all!  First and foremost, I'm really excited to be able to reach out to you and tell you a little about what we're doing with Umatter.  If you have any feedback or ideas you about the program, please feel free to get in touch with me at 

This project report is a submission to GlobalGiving's 2017 Fail Forward Contest, where organizations are asked to share a story of when they tried something new that didn't go as planned and how they learned from it. I want to talk about some mistakes we made last year and how it will inform this year’s Umatter YYA programming. 

Last year, we made a mistake by recruiting and registering more people than we had capacity to serve. We started the project out intending to serve 12 communities, but there was such interest, we ended up working with 19 communities.  While this speaks to the great need for Umatter YYA, it stretched our capacity and impacted our ability to effectively implement the program, so much so that we went over budget. Then we had to conserve funding at the end and we considered changing to a virtual Culmination Event, rather than doing the face-to-face event, much to the consternation of the school districts taking part in the program.  This created some disappointment for participating districts.

What we’ve learned this year is that we need to maintain a limit on the number of communities who participate.  We may be working in fewer communities, but we’ll work effectively and implement every part of the program effectively. 

You’ll be hearing more about Umatter and our other programs as we move forward with end of year fundraising, and with implementing the program itself in the 17 - 18 school year. 

Also, please read this great article about Umatter YYA implemented in South Dakota!,521942



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Organization Information

Center for Health & Learning

Location: Brattleboro, VT - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @health_learning
Project Leader:
Sara Haimowitz
Brattleboro, VT United States
$12,290 raised of $15,000 goal
163 donations
$2,710 to go
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