Group posing with check for donation to Anchor Project

An anchor of hope for suicide prevention

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 |

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24 years old. More than four million children aged 3 to 17 years old have been diagnosed with anxiety, with another nearly two million suffering from depression. This is why programs such as the Bayhealth Wellness Center Anchor Project at Caesar Rodney High School are so important for mental health.

The Anchor Project was created in 2017 by counselors at the Wellness Center with a goal of preventing suicides and connecting students with resources when they feel alone. Mental Health Counselor Christina Eilers, LCSW, said the program encourages students to pay it forward by showing others they’re an anchor in times of need. Through the project, the Wellness Center has anchors attached to “beAnchored” cards. Students can wear an anchor in support of the cause or pass it on to someone who needs hope. The grant-funded program was successful in its first two school years, but eventually ran out of funding. This is where Works of Heart came in.

Works of Heart is a student choreography showcase held once a year to benefit a good cause. Dover High School Junior Renée Friend started the benefit four years ago for a class project and hosts a showcase once a year benefiting a cause; suicide prevention and the Anchor Project was this year’s recipient. Friend’s father, Larry, is the assistant principal at CR High School. “I wear my anchor with my badge so students know I’m an anchor for them,” he said. “The best part about this benefit is knowing the money we raised will go back to help kids in the community. If this can help save one student’s life, it’s worth it.”

Through the benefit, Works of Heart was able to donate $2,000 to the Bayhealth Wellness Center at CR High School to not only benefit the Anchor Project there, but to help kick-start the program at the Wellness Centers at Woodbridge, Smyrna and Milford High Schools. It’ll also help continue the program at the Wellness Center at Dover High School; Counselor Christina Lanouette, LCSW, started the program after Eilers made a presentation during Suicide Prevention Month. “I felt it was a good way to get information to students and it might reach someone that would not reach out on their own,” she said.

Mental health and suicide prevention tend to be less visible than other children’s health concerns, Eilers said, making it vital for students to know resources are available for them if, and when, they are feeling down. “We’ve come a long way in reducing the stigma behind mental health, but we have a long way to go,” Eilers said.

Bayhealth’s Wellness Centers provide Delaware’s teenagers with health services in cooperation with each teen’s family physician. Located in area schools, the centers work to meet the needs of today’s youth. This includes their health education and nutritional, mental and emotional needs.

Visit WorksOfHeartDE.com to learn more about Works of Heart and what this nonprofit does in the community.

Telling signs of depression in kids

Family Medicine Physician James M. Fletcher, DO, says the most common signs parents can look out for are children being withdrawn, sleeping more, eating less, not wanting to talk about their day, and dealing with bullying from classmates, as well as signs of self-harm, avoidance and a desire to be alone. “It’s really important to have a great debriefing after a day of school. Check in to see how your child is doing and make sure they’re developing socially,” Dr. Fletcher said.

Dr. Fletcher encourages families to talk to their pediatrician immediately so the doctor can determine what to do next. If families don’t have a great relationship with their doctor, he says to call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, or visit a Bayhealth Wellness Center.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling and need help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting DE to 741741.