NEPTUNE BEACH, Fla. – News4JAX has been devoting space all week to take a deeper look at the stigma that still exists around suicide, ways to talk with your kids about it, and resources all families can tap into if they need help.
This morning in three hours, peer specialists at Here Tomorrow in Neptune Beach took nearly 100 calls from people who had mental health questions about themselves or others. It was part of a partnership with The Morning Show to draw attention to the services offered by the local mental health collaborative.
We started a conversation that should not stop today.
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As we’ve learned this week, depression and suicide do not discriminate. During our phone bank Friday at Here Tomorrow, we met Miss Fletcher High School Logan Smedley, who started having anxiety at 11 years old. With counseling, she’s been able to manage it, and she now wants to help others do the same thing.
“I feel that it’s very overwhelming and since everyone feels it’s normal in high school and it really isn’t, we all need to help each take ownership and say this is a problem. We need to help each other,” Smedley said. “I’m trying to start a peer counseling group at Here Tomorrow so that you can have a friendly face, a friend that will talk with you as you’re a human not that you’re another patient in an office.”
The concept that a trained peer specialist can be a great resource in a space that comes with so much stigma is what motivated cofounder Joe Kenney -- who also lost his 30-year-old son to suicide -- to start Here Tomorrow.
“Gary took his life and at his funeral we decided we were going to change this,” Kenney said. “We were going to put something together that we were going to help and we started the idea and started building on it.”
Here Tomorrow is just one resource available to you. You can talk to a specialist from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on the weekends and get no-cost counseling from a trained peer specialist who can relate to your need for help.
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During The Morning Show’s visit to Here Tomorrow, Melanie Lawson spoke with Kenney, Smedley and Dr. Christine Cauffield, CEO of LSF Health Systems, about issues surrounding mental health, suicide and how families can find help.
Cauffield spoke about the Certified Recovery Peer Specialist program and how you can use your experience to help others improve their mental health. Here’s the link for more information: https://flcertificationboard.org/certifications/certified-recovery-peers-specialist/
Smedley said she now finds connection with others as a source to stay grounded. She is working on starting a peer counseling program to help fellow students get through stressful and dark moments.
Kenney shared what motivated him to start a no-cost mental health service for the community and how surprised he was by the need he found.