By Jami Gibson

I’ve previously written about the “be nice.” mental health initiative, but as I’m gearing up for a fundraiser event next week, I want to update our readers on the cause and the role our community plays in helping movements like this gain traction.

To recap, “be nice.” is a campaign to raise mental health awareness, bullying and suicide prevention in schools, grades K-12. This is what their model stands for:

Notice – notice behavioral changes in your friends/family
Invite – invite yourself to initiate a conversation
Challenge – challenge the stigma; communicate important resources
Empower – empower someone to get help and know you can have an effect on his/her life

I’m currently volunteering for the Ottawa County chapter of the program, which in its two years, has reached nearly 50,000 students! In addition to the program’s generous donors, our first fundraiser event last year raised over $60,000 and has brought us to nearly half of our $750,000 goal to implement and forever sustain the curriculum in our county’s school systems. Beyond our chapter, “be nice.” is being implemented in other counties in Michigan as well as local businesses, and advocates of the program hope to take the initiative national.

If it wasn’t for our community leaders, school administrators, and passionate donors, this initiative would have flopped in our community. However, mental health issues touch nearly every person, whether firsthand, or secondhand watching a family member or friend struggle. It’s a cause most people can rally behind. And the more awareness there is about it, the less stigma there will be, and that is when we will truly see how prevalent these issues are within our society. Thankfully, the aforementioned activists have realized this need in our community, and have advocated for the “be nice.” program to reach people of all ages.

I’m looking forward to another successful event and raising awareness and funds for something that can be life-changing!

Don’t forget…National Suicide Prevention Week starts on September 10th!