18 Sep Martinez High School Hosts Suicide Prevention Event
Find Your Anchor had people make boxes of uplifting content at a suicide prevention event Wednesday at Vicente Martinez High. Attendees made their boxes so quickly, the event concluded an hour earlier than planned.
Story and photos by Joe Porrello
Multiple mental health initiatives came together Sept. 13 at Vicente Martinez High School for an event aimed at spreading awareness of suicide prevention and sharing resources.
Contra Costa County’s PEI program is funded through the California Mental Health Services Act, which became law in 2004 with the passage of Prop. 63.
Find Your Anchor uses the building and giving of boxes filled with uplifting contents, services and information to spread positivity and mental health resources.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Liberty High School counselor Tanya Silva.
Started in 2012 by Alexandra Borowsky in Long Beach, the initiative became an official nonprofit in 2018 and is now featured in over 40 countries; it has even partnered with the San Francisco 49ers on several occasions.
“I created Find Your Anchor because I’ve personally struggled,” said Borowsky. “My journey in the mental health world felt very clinical and sterile, so I figured I’d make something myself.”
After having made 250 boxes just five years ago, Find Your Anchor has now made over 65,000.
The box-building at Martinez High was the first event of its kind in Contra Costa County. Borowsky hopes it results in more care packages being in the area and more residents becoming aware of the resource.
Those in attendance on Wednesday collectively made 300 boxes in just the first hour, containing things like handwritten notes, stickers, pins and bracelets.
“There’s something really powerful that happens when community members make the boxes,” said Borowsky.
Attendees could take the boxes and either give them to someone they know in need or leave them somewhere to brighten a stranger’s day.
Many of the programs had a speaker to talk about their initiative’s approaches and strategies.
Contra Costa Crisis Center has a 24-hour suicide hotline available by dialing 211 or 988 that has been operating for 60 years.
“If you want advice and tips on either how to cope with challenges for yourself or a loved one, there are trained professionals there,” said event organizer Jessica Hunt. “If you don’t know what to say or do, they’re there to help.”
A3 Crisis Response is open 8 a.m. to midnight every day with licensed clinicians available to call for help.
Seneca Mobile Response Team has a team of counselors and clinicians that respond in person when called during crisis situations regarding someone in the age range of 0-22.
The Wellness in Schools Program helps support schools with mental health awareness and stigma reduction services by educating parents, students and staff.
“I would love to see this type of event happen during school,” said WISP representative Edmund Arnold.
Martinez High School student Lilithia De La Cruz believes students would participate in and benefit from box-building events if they were held during school hours, like during lunch.
“I feel enlightened; this whole thing has actually made me a lot more happy,” she said.
Silva noted that at Liberty High, many students struggle with mental health and could use similar sorts of gatherings.
“Any place that we can find resources or things that help support our students, we try to connect with them and bring them to campus,” she said.
Hunt, also the MHSA Contra Costa Mental Health program supervisor, noted one of the biggest problems with getting events like these underway and executed is making people aware of their existence.
“I’d imagine if you ask any number of members of the community in Contra Costa County if they knew that this was happening today, they’d probably say ‘no.’ There needs to be kind of a call to action,” she said. “It’s really hard sometimes to get through all the weeds, but I think the opportunity is there.”
The last MHSA community forum on suicide prevention was two years ago and held virtually due to the pandemic.
“It’s nice to see something like this here and to see such a good turnout,” said Arnold. “It warms my heart.”
About 50 people were in attendance, walking away with professional advice on how to prevent suicide.
Contra Costa Crisis Center Director of Programs Lesley Garcia said untrained people can also make a difference by assisting their friends and loved ones who are having troubles with mental health.
“You don’t need to be a professional to help somebody,” she said. “Just like you don’t need to be a doctor to give CPR to somebody to save a life, you don’t need to be a clinician to save a life.”
WISP will host a Suicide Prevention Training in Pleasant Hill on Sept. 20 to give those without formal education on the subject guidance to better help people in need, especially students.
Before handing off the microphone following their speech Wednesday, WISP Liaison Ali Cannon told the crowd, “To all our youth in the room, we’re here for you; we all have your backs.”
More on how to prevent suicide can be found at www.suicideispreventable.org.