BATH — For the past 10 years, JMG has partnered with the Unity Foundation to teach Maine youth about philanthropy and the grant process, allotting $1,000 to student groups to distribute to are nonprofit organizations.

Students begin the process by identifying needs in the community and researching organizations that address those concerns. They then invite a selection of organizations to apply for the grant funds. Students review grant applications and make funding recommendations. The 2018 recipient of the JOY grant at Morse High School is Midcoast Community Alliance (MCA).

In June 2016, after another suicide by a young person living in Bath, community member Jamie Dorr rallied for change. Through her grassroots effort, MCA was created, which includes community members from the public and private sector seeking to reduce the stigma of mental illness and increase help-seeking behaviors from those impacted. Their vision is to create a suicide-free community.

According to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey (MIYHS) 2017 report, 31.2 percent of Morse High School students reported that they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities. Further, 18.2 percent of the population at Morse reported seriously considering suicide in the last 12 months. These results are higher than the Maine average, which was 26.9 percent and 14.7 percent, respectively.

Since its inception, MCA has held a variety of events and activities to address their mission. Their most recent project, and subject of the JOY grant, is a partnership with the Maine Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to create a series of three educational videos for parents and teens to increase education about suicide prevention (signs and symptoms, factors to increase resilience and distress tolerance, and available resources).

Maria Morris, the specialist at Morse High School, says, “JOY is a great program to teach students, not only about philanthropy and the grant process but also how to think critically and use the decision-making process. Students discover their personal values. I’m stunned each year by how passionate students are with this project. They are making real-life decisions that impact others in a meaningful way and they take it very seriously.”

One senior, Brie Pinkham, says, “When choosing this year’s JOY grant the choice for me was easy. Through past experiences, I have learned just important knowledge of mental health can be. As a teenager I have lost two childhood friends, a feeling/experience no one that age should go through, feeling that hopeless. These videos could have helped us with the signs of depression and how to help.”

Awarding the grant to MCA is just one aspect of how the Morse JMG students and MCA collaborate. Last fall they partnered to plan the Hope Garden of yellow tulips, which was inspired by the Yellow Tulip Project an organization that uses the yellow tulip as a reminder that spring brings with it hope and light.

This spring representatives of the MCA, which include the Bath Police Department, and JMG students took to the streets of Bath to raise awareness of suicide and the mission of MCA as well as to distribute posters with the statewide suicide crisis hotline number.

Jamie Dorr, MCA founder says, “MCA is honored to be working with JMG students to make a positive impact, not only in our community, but throughout the state of Maine, through normalizing discussion around suicide and mental health and educating students and families on warning signs.

Partnership with students is vital — we need their input, their ideas, and their voice to address this public health crisis.”

Any who are concerned for themselves or others, should contact the Maine Crisis Hotline at 1-888-568-1112.
JMG is a statewide organization that partners with public education and private businesses to offer results-driven solutions to ensure all Maine students graduate, attain post-secondary credentials and pursue meaningful careers.