May is Mental Health Month, and a Project Silence No More, a Johnston nonprofit, is a major player in the effort to remove the stigma around discussing mental health issues.
That’s one reason it recently provided $2,500 to help fund “Sources of Strength,” a program that trains students in grades 8 to 12 at the Johnston Community Schools to support their peers who may be experiencing mental health crises.
“We know from research that young adults are more likely to confide in their peers about mental health struggles than they are with adults,” said Marcus Miller, a co-founder of Project Silence No More. “And so if we can empower young adults to know who to reach out to, how to have these conversations, how to get help, then that is a really positive thing for our students.”
It’s a lesson Miller and his co-founders learned the hard way when they were high school students in Johnston. Their community, he said, experienced a higher number of suicides than the national average, and that provided the impetus for their program.
“We believe that having conversations about that (suicide and mental health crises), sort of getting that into the forefront of the broader community’s conversation on this issue is necessary in order to combat it,” he told the Johnston Times in a telephone interview.
“We at Project Silence No More do believe that the stigma is a large barrier when it comes to folks reaching out for help,” he said.
“We have had a lot of success. We define success as being able to give back to our community, invest in things like the training program.
“We’ve hosted several events. We are about to host our second annual Mental Health Awareness concert for the entire community. We are also about to award our second $500 for a senior entering the field of mental health for their profession after high school. We have visited classrooms.
“So we believe that we have seen some improvement. We’ve continued this conversation on mental health and we’re proud of that.”
For more information on Project Silence No More and its programs, visit https://projectsilencenomore.org.