Celeste Martin had just moved from teaching in the classroom to counseling students in the guidance office at Goodpasture Christian School when she received the devastating news: a 16-year-old student had committed suicide.
“It was very overwhelming,” Martin recalled. “I knew him, so I was grieving too. It’s hard to know what to do. You want to do what’s best for the family and also for the students who are grieving.”
It was 1997 and the student’s name was Jason Flatt.
Jason’s father Clark went on later that year to found the Jason Foundation, a Hendersonville-based 501c3 dedicated to youth suicide awareness and prevention.
Over the years, the Jason Foundation has provided free suicide awareness and prevention curriculums to more than 9,000 schools and youth organizations across the country. The foundation also offers professional development training for educators. In 2018 alone it facilitated 200,000 trainings through its national network.
The organization’s latest initiative, in partnership with Acadia Healthcare, is aimed to help educators like Martin better deal with a crisis or traumatic event that affects students.
The Crisis Support Team (CST) project offers Tennessee school and youth group leaders access to a variety of resources as well as professional clinicians who can offer insight and support services to manage a crisis event such as a suicide, suicide attempt, death or school violence incident.
“When tragedy strikes, school counselors, faculty, and administrators may be unsure of the best way to manage the situation and provide emotional support to students,” Clark Flatt noted. “In partnership with Acadia, we are grateful to have the opportunity to expand the CST project to schools statewide. Ensuring school counselors and officials have adequate support when navigating a traumatic event is a commonsense and meaningful initiative that can have a lasting impact on our communities.”
Acadia and the Jason Foundation have collaborated for six years to amplify its suicide awareness and prevention programming through Acadia’s regional offices in 40 states. The CST project has been offered to a small number of schools and youth organizations across the country since early 2019. This is the first statewide expansion of the program
“The Jason Foundation is an incredible nonprofit serving schools and communities in Tennessee and throughout the country,” said Acadia Healthcare CEO Debbie Osteen. “[We’ve] seen firsthand the exceptional services they provide to families, students, and schools.”
School and youth group leaders are under tremendous pressure to take action and provide critical support in the wake of a crisis, according to Dr. Michael Genovese, Acadia’s chief medical officer.
“But with rapidly changing clinical guidelines and evolving best practices, it can be hard to keep up with the latest recommendations,” he said.
Genovese added that having immediate access to the CST ensures schools have a place to turn for that needed guidance and direction.
Martin said she could have benefited from a program like this in 1997.
“If I could’ve had someone walk me through the steps to take, that would have been wonderful,” she said. “It’s truly hard to know what to do that’s best for everybody.”
Katie Brown, Safe Schools Healthy Students Coordinator for Sumner County Schools said the Sumner County school district expects to take advantage of the program as well.
“It’s a valuable new resource from a trusted community partner, and we will certainly make use of it to support our schools,” said Brown.
For more information about the Crisis Support Team, go to www.acadiahealthcare.com/cst.