Tag Archives: Maine

Suicide Prevention… an awareness session focused on youth!

Yes, this is about suicide prevention… but it’s also about mental health! Learn some of the signs that a person is troubled and how you can make a difference. You’ll also receive resources available and materials produced by the Maine Suicide Prevention Program. (Click the image to see a larger size.)

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Substitute teacher class “alumni,” school employees and volunteers take note!

Maine is ranked fourteenth in the United States for deaths by suicide. Suicide in Maine occurs 7-9 times more often than homicide. The State averages 196 deaths by suicide each year; in 2009 alone, 2,800 high school students and 4,000 adults attempted suicide while 6,700 high school students and 27,000 adults considered suicide.

In part for those reasons, the Maine Legislature passed LD 609 several years ago. The bill, simply stated, requires every employee of all school systems to receive one to two hours of Suicide Awareness Training.  “Every employee” means anyone who receives a paycheck and includes substitute teachers, bus drivers, custodians—in fact, it is strongly recommended school volunteers receive the training as well. The training must follow research-based national guidelines.

For the past year, I have been working towards and am now fully qualified to conduct this training. I have completed the NAMI Adult Mental Health First Aid Specialist Training, Youth First Aid Provider Training, Gatekeeper Training, and Train the Trainer training—more than was required to qualify. I did so in part for the very same reasons the Maine Legislature enacted this requirement.

From 2007 through 2011 there were 116 youth (under age 25) suicides in Maine. Of those, 49 were between the ages of 10 and 19. During my training, I learned that the youngest confirmed suicide in Maine last year was an eight-year-old girl—that is almost unimaginable to most people. Those of us who work and play with these kids have a special opportunity to prevent these tragedies.

Hotline NumbersThe workshop will last about two hours and is truly designed for anyone—not just school employees–although the focus will be on youth. The first step in suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of risk factors. The program will also provide an understanding of basic prevention strategies and help attendees become more confident in the some of the basic steps they can take to assist others who may be troubled. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Attendees will also receive printed resources and information. Training is offered in conjunction with the Maine Suicide Prevention Program, an initiative of the Maine CDC in partnership with NAMI Maine.

PVAEC (Piscataquis Valley Adult Education Cooperative) has already agreed to sponsor the workshop during the winter/spring semester. The program will likely be offered in other adult education programs throughout the area. (Check back for dates!) Also, if any schools or organizations are interested in a program at your location, please let me know. I’ll be happy to work with you. Suicide Prevention is up to all of us.

What’s in the gift you give?

How much of you is in your gift?
How much of you is in your gift?

For a few months last spring, you might have seen me sporting one of those bracelets made from rubber bands. They are rather colorful and were quite the rage for a while. I came by mine as a gift from a fourth grader. There was no occasion and very little fanfare. It seemed like she just wanted me to have it for no other reason than that. I wore it constantly for a few months. Unfortunately, ultraviolet light does a number on rubber bands and it ultimately disintegrated.

Not so the handmade envelope that is pinned to the bulletin board in the kitchen. It was a gift from a kindergartener following an indoor recess due to rain. I guess her idea of a “good time” was making something for Mr. Boomsma. I suspect she had some help with the envelope, but the drawing rolled up inside is clearly her own work. It is festooned with flowers and stick figures beneath a bright sun.

I am hesitant to attempt an explanation of what makes these gifts special, but a word that comes to mind is “sharing.” We most often associate the word “giving” with gifts. But I suspect the best gifts include an element of sharing.  How different it would be to be handed something with the explanation, “I  want to share this with you.”  Neither gift was what one might consider costly–and neither child was forced to line up in front of a store for hours to get the best deal. Perhaps even better, they didn’t need to compete with other children over limited quantities to capture my gifts. Yet how I treasure these simple gifts. There is much to be said for giving (sharing) of oneself.

Angila Peters shares much of herself on her blog called “Detached from Logic.” She encourages us to abandon logic so we can “just be who you are.” In what must surely be a strange irony, much of what she proposes is, in fact, quite logical. You have got to read a recent post called American Girl versus Third World Girl. “Black Friday” may be over, but it’s not too late–you should read this before you buy one more Christmas present. I’d like to tell you more, but I’m afraid of being called a spoiler. I will tell you that I think she’s really onto something.  You just may find yourself re-thinking some of your Christmas list purchases.

As a bit of an eclectic, I’m not given to having favorites. If I was, one of my favorite tunes would be “Simple Gifts.” I love the tune for its simplicity. It was written in Maine by Joseph Brackett in 1848. It’s actually considered a Shaker dance song, but could be a Christmas Carol. Brackett also wrote simple lyrics:

Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Simple gifts, simple tune, simple lyrics and yet so much think about. “Just be who you are”–a simple gift we can give ourselves so we find ourselves “in the place just right.” And how simple it can be to share ourselves “in the valley of love and delight.”

An unknown writer added several verses:

Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Tis the gift to be loving, tis the best gift of all
Like a quiet rain it blesses where it falls
And with it we will truly believe
Tis better to give than it is to receive.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Mr. Boomsma Makes Mag!

SR Mag Clip“Mr. Boomsma” is the subject of a special article in the October Issue of Maine Seniors Magazine. The article was originally going to focus on the Grange, but as her research developed, writer Donna Halvorsen found a slightly different focus. She writes, “Each Grange can choose its own projects, reflecting local needs and interests. That’s how the Valley Grange, whose area stretches from Monson to Milo, came to focus so strongly on children. And how Boomsma—who talks with his hands and quotes Socrates—built a life around it.

I knew I quoted Socrates, but didn’t realize I talk with my hands. Although it makes sense because I happen to believe that a teacher can and should be his own greatest visual aid. I like to draw, too! (I didn’t say I was good at it… in fact I’ve been working on forming my letters correctly so I don’t embarrass myself in Kindergarten.)

One interesting side bar story… when the article was going through it’s final edits, Donna requested some pictures of me “working with kids.” Since I’m usually the photographer at school, I didn’t find very many so we decided to have a photo shoot. But who to invite?

I remembered how several years ago Kendall Kimball (then a second grader) announced to me she is going to be a “pop star” when she grows up. She also provided a detailed explanation of the difference between a “pop star” and a “rock star” and her determination has not waned. Needing a young model, it occurred to me that we might launch her career and establish her identity as a media darling. When you see the photo of us on page 35, I think you’ll agree–the camera loves her.

As for me… well, when the magazine hit Park Danforth–an assisted living center in Portland–my Aunt called to inform me that some of her girlfriends think I’m a real “hunk.” So I guess I’m popular with the eight year olds and the eighty-somethings.

Maine Seniors is a high quality magazine published right here in Maine and distributed throughout the state featuring “community icons” and “prime movers”— seniors who are making a difference in their communities and state. The article features some of Valley Grange’s initiatives such as Words for Thirds, Bookworming, and the GrowME project while telling some of my favorite stories about working with kids. But it also makes clear the fact that Mr. Boomsma believes it’s not about programs. The programs I like “are really just an excuse to do the real work.”

I would quickly add that it’s hard to think of something that’s this much fun as work. If  you  haven’t guessed what “the work” is, read the article.

A  complete digital copy is available on http://wboomsma.com. (Thanks to the publisher for generous reprint rights.) The entire issue will be accessible at http://meseniors.com before the month of October is over.

An outtake of the pop star and the hunk!
An outtake featuring the pop star and the hunk!