Published in the Hebrew Watchman, August 15, 2019
Approximately 100 teachers and staff from seven independent schools in Memphis came together at Bornblum Jewish Community School on the morning of August 8thfor First Responder training with Grace McLaren. The goal of First Responder Training is to equip participants to recognize and help emotionally fragile children and adults. Schools in attendance included the full staffs from Bornblum Jewish Community School and Margolin Hebrew Academy. Representatives from St. Mary’s Episcopal School, Bodine School, St. George’s Independent School, and Lausanne Collegiate School.
According to Dan Weiss, “I am incredibly grateful to our community schools for coming out to be part of this very important program, and putting our students’ social and emotional needs at the forefront.”
According to Grace “I want to change the direction suicide is having with losing 129 per day, and for every death, there are 25 attempts. We need to accept that suicide is as or more real than active shooters. Our brains can actually receive the horrible reality of an active shooter and be trained to respond. We can receive the reality of heart attacks or choking with training in CPR and the Heimlich Maneuver. But, when we sense a person is FRAGILE (the preliminary stage to suicidal), do we have a plan in place to respond for which we have been trained, tooled and practiced?”
The presenter, Grace McLaren’s vision for expandingandreplicating the abilityfor others to genuinely, appropriately and successfully support those facing darkness grew following her own son’s suicide in 2017. It is her son’s pain and her pain, along with her professional training and experience, that brought about First Responder Coaching.
The First Responder training at Bornblum was sponsored by The Sidney Kay Foundation. At the beginning of the seminar, Larissa and Jeffrey Kay shared their experience of losing their 14-year-old son to suicide. Commenting on the seminar, Larissa said, “I am proud of Bornblum’s commitment to community leadership and for hosting this First Responders teacher training. Not talking about suicide will not make it go away. Light must be shed on this dark subject. It is our job to listen to our children and loved ones very closely, and take action when necessary.”
Throughout this year, according to Mr. Weiss, “Bornblum will be integrating the theme of ‘Illuminating Your World.’ We are so grateful to Jeff and Larissa for providing us the ability to illuminate a path for teachers so that we can respond to the mental health needs of our students.”
During the 3.5 hour seminar, Grace taught participants how to recognize students who are fragile or in crisis. She shared statistics about the prevalence of mental health issues among children, taught the group about the sources of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in children’s lives. The remainder of the seminar explained Grace’s five-word mantra—Look, See, Ask, Tell, Do, providing participants with the tools needed to recognize and respond to children who exhibit signs of being fragile.
Bornblum and The Sidney Kay Foundation will host a second seminar on September 12that 6:30pm at Bornblum. That seminar will focus on providing First Responder awareness to parents and community members. The event is free and open to the entire community.