Teens offered ‘Safe Space’ from suicide

To Sherry Abbott, one death by suicide is one too many.

With a number of area young people having taken their lives over the past several years, Abbott and several other concerned Callaway County residents have banded together to create a space where struggling teens can turn for help.

The executive board of the newly created Safe Spaces, a not-for-profit organization for the prevention of teen suicide, had its first meeting Tuesday afternoon, and members said they hope to start making a difference soon.

“(Suicide) has affected my family and the whole community,” Abbott, president of the Safe Spaces board, said of the decision to take action. “To me, one (suicide) is too many, and we just keep saying we don’t have a problem, and I felt like we had a problem after the first year.

“I see a need with the kids that are asking for some kind of program to go to. We have a real need here in our community.”

Like Abbott, vice president Emily Carroll, who also is the pastor at Court Street United Methodist, said her interest in Safe Spaces stems from a personal connection to suicide, as well as a desire to serve her community.

“I think part of a church’s job is to be in the community. I had been here a whole three months when I got a call about a teen suicide, so I knew right off the bat we had a problem here,” Carroll said. “My goal is just making sure young people have a safe place to go if they need to talk, and trusted adults they can turn to.”

The mission of Safe Spaces is to “reduce the number of attempted suicides by promoting awareness, prevention and coping skills.”

Board secretary Stephanie Leverett said Safe Spaces aims to start holding outreach programs twice a month at Court Street United Methodist Church as well as opportunities for struggling teens to seek help through the organization’s Facebook page and eventually a 24-hour crisis line.

“Kids that age, they’re just looking for that one thing. I hope we can provide that,” Leverett said. “Finding that place where something feels right is so important. I just want these kids to know they have a place to come to. We’re here to listen and talk.”

Future plans also include working with resources provided by the Prevention of Teen Suicide to educate local parents and youths and perhaps bring in guest speakers.

The board intends for all board members and volunteers to receive some sort of training on how to spot warning signs and direct teens who may be at risk to the appropriate professional help.

Organization of Safe Spaces still is in the early stages, and the group is seeking help from the community, whether that comes in the form of volunteerism or monetary support.

“Any effort, no matter how big or small, is valuable,” Carroll said. “We’re in the beginning stages, so we’re going to need lots of water to make this seed grow.”

Anyone interested in more information, or in getting involved with Safe Spaces should contact Abbott at safespacesfulton@gmail.com, 573-220-9015 or on the Safe Spaces Facebook page.

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