In 2007, the Lake County Suicide Prevention Coalition launched a teen peer-to-peer initiative called GAHTAH (Give A Hand. Take A Hand). The idea came from the realization that older teens could potentially be a very effective delivery system for getting important information about depression and suicide to younger teens.
We first partnered with Mentor High School, where nine juniors and seniors formed the pilot GAHTAH team. Led and encouraged by adult supervisors from both the Suicide Prevention Coalition and the school, the students developed a performance-based strategy. They eventually presented to all freshmen and sophomores that year. Today, the GAHTAH program is in five high schools throughout Lake County.
The core message
When the Coalition does presentations for adults, we tell audience members what to do and not do if they’re with someone who is suicidal, and about emergency and non-emergency resources they can tap. As the GAHTAH strategy began to take shape, we felt strongly that we needed a much simpler action plan for kids. So the core GAHTAH message is this: If you notice things that trouble you – in yourself, or in a friend – tell a trusted adult. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today.
This, of course, implies buy-in from the broader school community. That “trusted adult” may end up being a science teacher, coach, school counselor, assistant principal, or bus driver. Thus, it’s important that the school staff is dialed in that students are being encouraged to reach out to them, and that they’re very aware of school protocol in such situations.
If you’re interested in having a GAHTAH group in your school, call Rae Grady at 440-350-2196 or send us an email.