Brainerd Teens Talk Suicide Prevention in the Community
After losing a friend and teammate to suicide last month, members of the Brainerd Boys Soccer Team are creating a non-profit organization to bring awareness to mental health. It was originally named Smiles for Jake, but after further discussion the group decided to rename it the Lighthouse Project.
“People don’t look to a lighthouse when they know where they are going, they are going to look to the lighthouse when they don’t know where to turn or what to look for,” said Noah Sundberg, one of the founding members of the Lighthouse Project.
The Lighthouse Project is a way to get local teens talking about mental health and, more importantly, provide resources.
“This can never happen again; we need to change how we are treating each other and why did this happen to hopefully prevent it from ever happening again,” said Noah Ebinger, a Lighthouse Project board member.
The organization came together after the team, community and family members suffered a devastating loss.
“Just pure shock, there is no way you can really prepare for that and you just can’t be ready for that,” said Jack Thorkeson, a supporter of the Lighthouse Project.
But now, the teens are hoping to better prepare Brainerd and educate the community about mental health.
“If one of my friends is suffering from depression and I don’t know what to do, I don’t know how to talk to him, then I can look to the Lighthouse Project, go on our website, and it will tell you here is how to bring it up and here is what you do,” Sundberg said.
With inspiration from a beloved friend, and guidance from his family.
“We’ve been trying to keep really close with Jake’s family, just because this is where it started, and we want to make sure that what we are doing, they agree with because that’s our base and foundation,” Sundberg said.
As they reminisce old memories of their friend and teammate.
“I knew that this would be kind of my way to get through it because I knew that instead of just sitting around, crying and feeling sorry, I knew I could change it so that we never have to go through this again, and that was my driving factor,” Sundberg said.
And even though it is a big goal, these teens are ready to make a difference.
“It’s a big step, but it’s good to be at the foundation of it,” said Tim Whiteman, a board member.
“I just hope that one day when we walk down these hallways, everyone smiles at each other and know that we have each other’s backs, no matter what group you come from,” Sandberg said.
Their goal is to create a brighter future for Brainerd.
“Hopefully we are changing the culture in Brainerd and hopefully preventing this from ever happening again,” Ebinger said.
The group plans to get mental health screenings into the schools by the fall. They will also hold their first Family Night Fundraiser at Essentia Health Sports Center in Brainerd on May 4. More information can be found here.