Umatter -- Prevent Teen Suicide in New England!

by Center for Health & Learning
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!

The Umatter Youth and Young Adult (YYA) program kicks off this year on November 14th at Lake Morey Resort. We are currently recruiting groups of youth ages 12-21 from schools and community organizations. Our new promotional video is helping us communicate what youth can expect to experience and achieve by participating. You can view the video here:

 This year we are conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the program. Evaluators from the Center for Rural Studies are creating evaluation tools to gather both process and impact data. This information will help us improve the quality of the program as well as determine how the program impacts the resiliency of participating youth. A full evaluation report will be published by June 2020. 

Umatter YYA is collaborating with a number of organizations around the state of Vermont who also provide youth engagement opportunities including Vermont Afterschool, UVM Extension, Up for Learning, and Vermont Federation of Families to name a few. This collaboration will allow us to offer new opportunities for leadership and facilitation skill development as well as connection with other youth leaders around the state. We are excited to be a part of the growing efforts to empower youth to take action in impacting issues that matter to them.

Please help support Umatter for Youth and Young Aduts by giving to this project today!

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Umatter YYA participants presenting their work.
Umatter YYA participants presenting their work.

The Umatter for Youth and Young Adults (Umatter YYA) program for 2018-19 is complete!  Overall, 12 schools and 68 youth participated and implemented Mental Health Wellness Community Action Projects in their school.  Some of the projects were really insightful and creative:

Our group decided to create a workshop for 6th grade students about how to deal with stress/worries because we wish we had gotten this information when we were younger. We met weekly to design our workshop and decided to use ClassDojo - short online videos with discussion questions about changing mindset for younger children. Unfortunately we were unable to present the workshop before the end of the year, but plan to pick the project back up in the fall.

This fall, our group planted a tulip garden for The Yellow Tulip Project, as a way to smash the stigma surrounding mental illness, build community, and inspire productive conversations about how to combat the rising rates of suicide. In the spring, we had a Yellow Tulip Celebration. We had all kinds of food, and we did a "kindness rocks" project (over 50 river rocks were painted yellow and students took paint markers and wrote kind messages on the rocks to give to friends, keep for themselves, or put in the garden). We also had a "Hope Happens" poster where people wrote down what makes them hopeful. Next fall we plan to do the "I Am More" campaign, which we hope will help draw other people into the cause/club.

A detailed list of all projects is attached to this Report.

To culminate the success of the program, six schools attended the Youth Summit event on May 30, 2019 at Vermont Technical College.  The Umatter Youth Leadership Council did an amazing job facilitating the day. Each group shared about their Community Action Projects, reflected on their experience as a group, and planned next steps.  

Here are what Umatter YYA participants are saying about their experience:

“Umatter helped me gain self-confidence and make new friends”

“I like being a part of a group that is actively trying to improve the school and the life of students.”  

“People should join Umatter if they want to make a difference in their communities.  By normalizing the conversation on mental health, we help people feel less alone which ultimately brings people together.

A new Umatter YYA program will begin this Fall.  Please continue to support this important program that reaches our youth and gives them the tools and skills for positive mental health in their schools and communities!  

Presentation at the Technical College
Presentation at the Technical College

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YYA Activity: Fishbowl, changing mindsets
YYA Activity: Fishbowl, changing mindsets

Last month Bellows Falls Union High School and Compass School brought teams of students to participate in the Umatter Youth and Young Adult Program. These youth were excited to participate because they wanted to learn how to cope with their own stress and how to help their friends in distress.

The Umatter YYA program begins with a one day training event where youth learn the core components of how to maintain good mental health. This includes understanding the 5 dimensions of health, how to cope with stress, and develop a growth mindset. Using experiential games, videos, creative projects, and group discussion these concepts are explored and applied to real life examples.

When asked about the types of stressful situations youth are dealing with in their schools, participants listed dealing with problems within families, school violence, losing people close to them, difficulties in dating relationships, school work load, worries about life after high school, worrying about what others think of them, and talking in front of a large group of people.

By the end of the day, participants knowledge of how to deal with these situations in positive and constructive ways increased by 50%. They walked away with renewed focus on their strengths and how they can use them to help others.

The groups are now meeting regularly to plan and implement Community Action Projects. In May, these schools will join 10 other schools, who participated in the Umatter YYA statewide training event in January, to celebrate their work, inspire others, and determine how to continue to support their own and other’s mental wellness.

We are grateful for your support of our Golbal Giving project that makes this work possible. If you know a school that you think could participate in a Umatter YYA program, contact

YYA Activity Circle
YYA Activity Circle
YYA Bellows Falls Presentation
YYA Bellows Falls Presentation


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2019 Umatter YYA Leaders
2019 Umatter YYA Leaders

CHL’s Umatter for Youth and Young Adults (Umatter YYA) is a youth leadership and engagement initiative that includes a full day of interactive training with peers statewide, design and implementation of a Community Action Project (CAP) in their school community, and presentation of a CAP at the local or state level. The program helps create a comprehensive strategy in schools for suicide prevention by providing students with mental health promotion skills and engaging them as community leaders.

Core content and skills of Umatter YYA include mindset, assessing personal strengths, assets and risks, resiliency, stress, self-care, strength and risk-based coping skills and consequences, recognizing signs of distress in self and others/peers, knowing what to say and do, and help-seeking.

On January 17th, CHL is kicking off this year’s Umatter YYA program by inviting schools to send a group of students with adult advisors to the Umatter YYA statewide training event at the Vermont Technical College campus in Randolph, VT. The goal is to promote mental health wellness by teaching healthy coping skills, as well as the ability to recognize when a peer needs help and how to help. This event is led by youth in partnership with adults, and we encourage groups to be composed of youth from a variety of backgrounds.

Participants will gain the background knowledge and curriculum needed to plan a CAP that is designed to promote mental health and resiliency in their community, and address issues such as bullying, substance use and suicide prevention. Umatter YYA groups will then feature their CAPs at a statewide Youth Summit to be held in the spring, which is being planned by a statewide Youth Advisory Council and as a collaboration of multiple organizations.

Young people in middle and high school ages 13-18, as well as youth in transition to adulthood ages 18-21, are invited to participate in Umatter YYA with the support of adult advisors. Currently, we have nine school groups confirmed, with 14 adults and 72 youth participating. Some of the youth participating also attended our Umatter YYA Youth Leadership Facilitator Training on December 11, 2018 and will be joining the group as leaders in the January training.

These programs are important resources within our communities that provide students with the tools they need to navigate life’s challenges. We are very grateful for the support you have given us, which helps us continue to expand the reach of our work in schools and communities. Please consider continuing your support by clicking on the "Give Now" button below to make a recurring donation that will provide long term support of our Umatter programs.

You can also learn more about all of our work by visiting our website at Thank you and best wishes for a peaceful new year.

Youth Leadership Training in Rutland, Vermont
Youth Leadership Training in Rutland, Vermont
Youth Leadership Training in Rutland, Vermont
Youth Leadership Training in Rutland, Vermont
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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


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Center for Health & Learning

Location: Brattleboro, VT - USA
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @health_learning
Project Leader:
Sara Haimowitz
Brattleboro, VT United States
$14,554 raised of $15,000 goal
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