With Oregon youth suicides increasing at an alarming rate, Ashland Elks Lodge 944 used a Gratitude Grant from the Elks National Foundation to provide workshops for area youths.

Lodge members met with the local youth suicide prevention coordinator, social workers and counselors working with at-risk youth throughout Jackson County. They collaborated with staff at the Phoenix Counseling Center and Armadillo Technical Institute to provide two workshops featuring “Strategies For Success” in this area.

The workshops were patterned after a successful curriculum used with veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with traumatic brain injury, depression, PTSD and a history of suicide attempts. The premise is that when a person identifies what is important to them and explores ways to bring those values into their daily life, they experience hope and a sense of purpose. Graduates of the veteran program described it as life-changing and said that had they learned the skills as teenagers, their lives would have been better.

The Ashland Elks Lodge hosted 19 middle school students for a two-session workshop and a subsequent two-session workshop was attended by 13 high school students. Participants learned how to write personal mission statements and then learned how to use them effectively to set goals, providing options for overcoming obstacles and difficult choices. They were also taught simple strategies to reduce stress and anxiety.

At the conclusion of the workshop, each participant chose a backpack, journal, colored pens and pencils and mindfulness coloring books designed to reduce everyday stresses.

Numerous items imprinted with crisis line phone numbers were included. They were given several laminated copies of their individualized mission statements to keep in their backpacks and wallets.

In addition to holding the workshops, the Elks Lodge provided Calming Coloring Workbooks, colored pens and pencils and numerous art supplies to Armadillo, Phoenix Counseling Adolescent Treatment Group, the Rose Circle Mentoring Group and the Ashland High School Wellness Center.

Elks Lodge 944 has reapplied for another Gratitude Grant to offer the same program in the 2017-18 school year and expand the number of youths served.