Morris County Counters Suicides 'Seven' Ways

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COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. (WIBW) - Council Grove High School and Middle School students got an early morning earful - of music and motivation.

It was a special presentation to help them cope with a recent string of suicides, as local leaders tried to send a positive message against a negative trend.

Four young lives were lost to suicide in the past six months.

"It's been really hard and sad, because we lost a student in our class," Emily Watson, a Council Grove High School junior said. "It's been really hard. So I think this will help us," she said.

The presentation by the Seven Project, a faith-based group that partners with local communities, was interspersed with band performances and personal stories from director Travis Dumond.

A community response team consisting of community members, school leaders and clergy came together to address the crisis among its youth. As part of the effort, they invited the Seven Project to come and talk about suicide, substance abuse, peer pressure, bullying character and coping.

"A lot of this was born out of a rash of suicides we've seen in the past six months among students and recent grads of our area," James Haffener, Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Alta Vista, said, "We couldn't allow this to keep going on."

At the hour-long assembly, community members let students know, the storms in life are real, but they are here to provide cover.

Adults in attendance brandished umbrellas to say, "We are here to provide you shelter from the storm," Dumond explained.

Haffener said he hopes the presence of a few dozen community members at the assembly develops trust between the generations.

"A student being honest with an adult begins with a relationship," based on trust and interpersonal interaction, Haffener said. "That's where it begins."

"All the networking and mobilization that we've done in leading up to this event, is basically building that bridge between those generations, so there can be more open dialog," he said.

The Seven Project sees itself as a catalyst to create connections in the community.

"We don't want these kids to connect to us, we want them to connect to he people in the community that they know, so there's that long-term relationship when we leave," he said.

Emily Watson said the presentation had a big impact on her. "I'm hoping that this will bring us closer together as a community and not have so many suicides in our town," she said.

Seven Project talked about six topics at the morning assemblies to keep their message secular. An inspirational assembly Wednesday evening introduces a seventh solution through Christ.