Tag Archives: writing

Preventing Suicides in School

University of Maine journalism student Kendra Caruso recently joined us for a Suicide Prevention Workshop both to learn about suicide and to gather information for a journalism assignment.  We’re pleased she decided to share her work with us!


Preventing Suicides in School–
Highlighting a growing problem prevalent in Maine schools.

by Kendra Caruso

Walter Boomsma is a substitute teacher for the Piscataquis Community Elementary School.  He has experienced firsthand the reality of suicide among the adolescent in the state of Maine, it’s why he teaches the Suicide Awareness and Prevention workshop that’s free for the public to attend but required for all school personnel.

LD 609 was enacted into law on April 25, 2013 and requires anyone who works for a school system in the state of Maine to receive comprehensive training on suicide prevention that’s research based, from bus drivers to teachers.  Boomsma’s two-hour class meets the state mandate.  The course he uses is a collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

In Maine suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds and 16.14 people die per 100000 residents compared to the national average of 13.26 in 2015 according to the CDC.

Boomsma talks about bullying as one of the leading causes of suicide among adolescents in his workshop and social media has made it easier for bullies to access their victims.  Boomsma talks about how to address a suicidal child being bullied.  Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to be suicidal than people who don’t experience bullying, according to a study by Yale University.

Hailey Cipullo of Abbot is an eighth grader at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and has been the victim of bullying herself. She never experienced suicidal thoughts but lost a friend she went to a summer camp with to suicide because of bullying.  She didn’t even know her friend was experiencing suicidal thoughts.  Cipullo doesn’t blame herself for not realizing what her friend was going through.  Boomsma teaches not to self-blame for losing someone to suicide.

The LGBTQ community had a much higher risk for suicide ideation, 50 percent of bisexual youth experienced ideation and 25 percent attempted suicide, 40 percent of gay or lesbian youth experienced ideation and 21 percent attempted suicide, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey in 2013.  Youth in the LGBTQ community are more likely to become suicidal if they are rejected by family.

Men are more likely to die from suicide but women experience ideation more, for one male attempt there are three female attempts.  Men are more likely to kill themselves using violent means where women tend to us less violent acts such as taking pills according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Native American youth are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts with an average of 17 per 100000 residents compared to 12.1 for the whole US according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.

Boomsma experienced the tragedy of suicide first hand when his brother ended his own life but that’s not why he teaches this class.  He teaches this class because of the affect suicide has on Maine’s youth.

Boomsma spends a few minutes after class when he gets home and thinks about how he may have trained someone who will save a life, “I think to myself, I may have saved a life tonight.”

Maine Public Offers Workshop for High School Writers

Maine Public and the Maine Writing Project are offering a free two-week workshop for young writers to hone their skills, called Raise Your Voice Workshop. The workshop will provide a forum for seasoned writers and teachers to share their experiences with the students. Participating students will develop writing and multimedia that will be featured on the Raise Your Voice! Web page. It also may be aired on Maine Public Radio. The program will take place from July 24-August 4 at three locations including Baxter Academy for Science and Technology in Portland, Thomas College in Waterville and the University of Maine in Orono from 8:30 AM to Noon each day. To apply, go to mainepublic.org under the Education tab, or contact Education Program Coordinator Dave Boardman at RaiseYourVoice@mainepublic.org or call 423-6934.

Emotionally Intelligent Communication

Here’s a short video (seven minutes) that demonstrates a couple of things… First, a currently “hot” presentation method called “Pecha-kucha.”

Second, and more importantly, the presentation offers some great examples of “emotionally intelligent signage.” Understand this is not just about signs, it’s about communication. It might even be about “emotionally intelligent teaching.” It’s definitely about how we can connect with those to whom we are sending a message.

Pecha-kucha presentation on emotionally intelligent signage from Daniel Pink on Vimeo.

How Do You Spell… and does it matter?

According to a recent warning from Techlicious, there’s a fairly slick scam being foisted on Amazon users. Except maybe it isn’t so slick if you’re paying attention. Here’s a sentence in the warning  from Techlicious that caught my eye:

For instance, one tell-tale sign of bogus emails is the presence of sloppy writing in the email — especially misspellings and grammar errors. However, not all scammers failed English 101, so some phishing emails actually do sound and look professional. So, looking for language anomalies may not be 100 percent reliable, but they are usually red flags.

That’s sound advice, but there’s one problem with it.

I maintain several blogs/websites that include contributions from others. I have come to the conclusion that many adults either do not know or do not pay attention to basic rules of grammar. Therefore, I do a fair amount of editing.  Yes, it makes me feel needed, but it also makes me feel sad. Why aren’t we more interested in the mechanics of writing and communication?

I don’t consider myself a “Grammar Nazi” — in fact, I believe there are times when one should ignore a fine point of grammar in the interest of good communication.  However, my high school English Teacher (Thank you, Mr. Russo.) often  said, “You can’t intentionally break the rules of grammar if you don’t know what they are.”  He often made this statement when students started whining because they didn’t see the point of learning the rules, keeping us focused on communication and the role those rules play. (We also learned that violating a rule of grammar unintentionally sometimes resulted in communicating something we did not intend to say.)

Well, technology gives us another reason to pay attention in English Class. An inability to recognize fundamental spelling errors and violations of grammatical rules increases the odds you will fall victim to a scam. 

Yes, in the larger sense it’s actually about paying attention to detail. I received a phishing email from “Capital1” instead of “Capital One.” In the scam reported by Techlicious, the request to “confirme” your order details is like waving a red flag.

I’m truly excited to report yet another reason to promote a knowledge of  “good” writing, including spelling. Aren’t you?