04/08/12 — Run, speech to target teen mental health

View Archive

Run, speech to target teen mental health

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 8, 2012 1:50 AM

A Wayne County mother of a suicide victim and her sister are leading an effort to not only get parents, teachers and teens to talk about suicide and cyberbullying, but also offering a chance for the community to get involved in the physical activity they say is key to good mental health.

Deanna Morris and Vivian Singleton Ford are planning a Power UP weekend, April 13-14. The idea: To give the community a chance to talk to a professional about not only teen suicide, but the potential causes and concerns facing young people.

Mrs. Morris is no authority on teen suicide -- but she's still more than willing to talk about it.

Especially since her own nephew, Nathan Lane Ford, committed suicide April 13, 2007, just three months shy of his 17th birthday.

"Nathan was like the son I never had," she said.

Nathan was a student at Spring Creek High School, while Mrs. Morris was middle school athletic director and a coach there.

His loss was devastating, to his family and friends as well as the community. And while there was an outpouring of grief, there were also questions.

"Ever since Nathan, I have had people come and ask me" about their child or a relative who might be suicidal, she said. "People asking me like I'm supposed to know."

Ms. Morris said she has no problem with the questions. It would be far worse if the subject wasn't discussed, she said.

She was impressed, she said, by a comment she heard from Doug Merrill, a former educator and coach in Ohio who started the Power UP Society after being affected by a rash of suicides.

"(He) said that people want to be real quiet about teen suicide because they don't want to give kids ideas," she said. "But he made a big comment, that not talking about it didn't save his friends, it didn't save his kids, his students, his players.

"We have got to get over the hump of talking about what to learn to prevent it."

She said her sister, Nathan's mother, Ms. Ford, has used the experience to prevent others from going through what she has the past five years.

The sisters have helped organize an event this coming weekend they hope will not only raise awareness about the issue of teen suicide but also help reduce forms of bullying and cyberbullying.

"The importance of the event to me is that when a mother loses a child by suicide or cyberbullying, our biggest fear is that their child will be forgotten," Ms. Ford said. "It's a mother's fear that their child will be forgotten, and it's a way of keeping their child's memory alive in a good way."

Power UP Weekend will take place Friday and Saturday at Sleepy Creek Club House in Dudley.

Friday evening, Merrill will be keynote speaker at a dinner at 6:30 p.m. He will focus on the aforementioned topics and share his own story as well as how to get a Power UP Society started at schools.

Other speakers include Dave Thomas, former county athletic director and school board member, who will introduce Merrill; Bryan Leonard, state trooper, on legal options when someone is cyberbullied; and Sarah Neider, Wayne Uplift shelter manager, who will talk about the difference between cyberbullying and sexual assault via texting and social networking.

Renee Anderson, a freshman at Spring Creek High, will also be singing.

Cost for the event is $5 per person, with all proceeds going to the Power UP Foundation.

Saturday morning, there will be a road race at the same location, starting at 8:30 a.m. Registration starts at 7:30 a.m. for those who did not register in advance.

Pre-registration can be done through Thursday, at www.runtheeast.com. Cost is $20 the one-mile race or $25 to participate in the 5K or 10K races.

Awards will be give to the top three male and female finishers in each age group.

A pig-picking will follow the race. Cost is $5.

For more information on the weekend, call Ms. Morris at 223-2628.