The GEM Project
GEM Project Dayton is dedicated to fighting suicide in the Dayton area. GEM stands for Goal: Everyone Matters, and our current focus is to curb youth suicide through peer-to-peer education and support.
There are many reasons why addressing youth suicide is important, but we will share just these statistics: less than 200 youth have died in school shootings in approximately 20 years, but 5,200 youth die by suicide every single year. We must assess and address ALL of the threats and save more lives. Our team is working on ways to reach our youth as well as others in the Dayton community.
We held our first Art Contest for Suicide Prevention in the 2021-22 school year. We invite local high school students to create images that depict hope and encouragement for their peers. The top winners receive cash awards and now have the honor of having their artwork on display around the community. This contest was designed, launched, and coordinated by a group of eight high school students. We are fortunate to have a very skilled panel of judges from a variety of backgrounds including artists, suicide prevention specialists, and mental health professionals.
2022 - 23 Artwork by Lili, Grade 9
Even though we launched the contest during COVID, we were delighted to find sponsors and get 21 entries from seven local high schools in our inaugural effort. The following year, we opened the contest up to middle school as well as high school students and received 67 entries from 23 schools. We anticipate our contest will continue to grow, and our long-term goal is to have at least one student from each area high school participate.
Our immediate goal is to share the artwork from the contest throughout the community. We have achieved this in a variety of ways:
Large vinyl banners displaying the GEM artwork and artists’ statements that travel to schools, public libraries, medical conferences, community centers, etc.
A slide presentation featuring GEM artwork with suicide prevention information that can be shared in-person, via zoom, or on display monitors in public spaces, such as school hallways, community centers, etc.
Coasters with crisis information distributed at local bars and eateries
Posters with crisis information that fit in bathroom stalls, community bulletin boards, etc.
Our hope is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide by getting people to talk about these problems that have gone largely unaddressed for too many years. Many students are overwhelmed, depressed, and anxious. Unfortunately, they cope in unhealthy ways because we haven’t taught them how to identify, treat, or live with mental health issues that have been caused or exacerbated by the financial, social, etc., pressures put on them. This contest has helped students talk about their own mental health or ask about a peer’s mental health when they recognize the signs of distress.
Education is key to suicide, and not just the education of students. We are also reaching adults and helping them understand how to communicate with youth and their peers about suicide and mental health, too. Talking about suicide is the only way we can reduce or eliminate it.