New Collaboration Aims to Make a Difference with Bullying

Students at CES created a Unity Tree under the guidance of students from WCCC Supervisory Management program in the past. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

A collaboration of organizations has joined together to plan an anti-bullying event for the Calais area, with the possibility that other events may follow depending on the response from the community.  Individuals from Washington County Community College, AMHC, Community Caring Collaborative, Calais Regional Hospital and Dunkin Donuts have organized a new group called Making a Difference Right Now, or MADRN, and its first event – which will focus on raising suicide awareness – is scheduled for April 23rd.

The idea has grown from a series of meetings between the involved individuals, each of whom is passionately committed to addressing the situation of bullying in area schools and the dangers of unaddressed issues pertaining to mental health. John Cowell, Manager of Dunkin Donuts, coined the term. “We’re in it not to make a difference tomorrow, we’re doing it right now,” Cowell said of how the name occurred to him. 

The group determined that the first event should have a suicide awareness theme, and identified Kelly Ela as being an excellent option for a speaker. Ela, who served with the Coast Guard and is now the Post and District Service Officer for American Legion Post 155 of Naples as well as a Suicide Prevention worker for the Veterans Administration, will be sharing her personal story about how she nearly committed suicide at a young age. There will be trained support workers on hand to assist community members if the material presented becomes too overwhelming at any time. 

Will Costa of AMHC will also be speaking at the event to connect those present with resources that are immediately available in the Calais community. Handouts will be available for attendees to bring home or to their workplace as desired.

The group will be working with the Calais school system to share and build on activities that foster an anti-bullying mentality, such as creating a Unity Tree. Unity Trees are shared creations that may include personal experiences, ideas, or positive comments, all of which are written on leaves that are attached to the tree. There will be a Unity Tree present during the event on the 23rd for the community to make their own. In addition, the group will be working with the older students of the school system to encourage them to come in and assist younger students with the anti-bullying projects.

While the first event is aimed at suicide prevention, the hope is that other events on pertinent topics will follow. “This should be the kickoff event to a longer series that supports the work that we’re all engaged in,” said WCCC President Joe Cassidy.

Costa suggested that cyberbullying should be a focus at some point due to the significant number of adolescents affected by it. “One out of three clients in that age range have some kind of problems with cyberbullying,” Costa said, based on his experiences. “It’s easy to bully people through social media because you’re not seeing their reaction,” he explained. “People are becoming indifferent to being mean to others through social media because they aren’t seeing the damage firsthand.” 

The first MADRN event will take place on April 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at Washington County Community College in St. Croix Hall. Refreshments will be available and there is no cost to attend. Supervised adolescents are welcomed and encouraged to attend. For more information, contact John Cowell at 454-3301.