Butte youths launch peer-to-peer suicide prevention effort

2014-03-03T09:21:00Z 2014-03-03T12:07:07Z Butte youths launch peer-to-peer suicide prevention effort Montana Standard

Kal Leamer, in the freshman groove at Montana Tech, felt like an outcast at Butte High School.

Artistic-minded, he did not fit in with the mainstream of Saturday football games and pep rallies. But now, at 18, he’s found a niche — one that’s extending a helping hand to others.

Leamer is working to connect young people in an attempt to prevent suicide.

The tragedy of three teen suicides in the past several months in Butte prompted Leamer and former art classmate Katie Metesh to found Project Life.

The nonprofit offers peer-to-peer support that creates alternative outlets for youths 14 to 20.

“I started Project Life … in the hopes of creating a positive movement that gives anyone help in dealing with anxiety and depression,” said Leamer, “and at the same time focusing on life, how beautiful it is and all the fun we can have together.”

The two are filling a need for student-driven groups that let teens know they are not alone in their challenges with depression and mental illness — the No. 1 causes of

suicide, said state suicide prevention coordinator Karl Rosston.

“I know the feeling of being out of place in high school and tried very hard to fit in,” Leamer said. “Art has always been my escape. Last year, senior year, I decided I didn’t care what people thought of me.”

The ever-present emphasis on sports, in particular, impacted his self-image.

“Butte High revolves around high school football and if you don’t play football, you’re a nobody,’’ he said. “If you ask anybody up there, people will tell you the same thing. There’s no recognition for anybody who does anything else. It’s disgraceful.”

Finding constructive activities for kids of all backgrounds and interests is one of its goals.

For example, Project Life threw a Cosmic Swim Party at the Butte Family YMCA in January that was a big hit. About 100 high school and college-age kids showed up for the music, laser tag, dodgeball, inflatable football and basketball contests — all while the pool was lit with 1,300 glow sticks.

Dane Schroder, YMCA operations manager, said the party was an “awesome” inaugural event for Project Life.

“One thing that really excited me was I looked over to see four or five freshmen laughing and dancing,” said Schroder. “It really warmed my heart to see that group having that much fun; it was great. There weren’t a lot of sports kids or popular kids; it was the kids who needed it. It was a very good start.”

Leamer said youth up to age 20 are welcome at Project Life events because that’s “a crucial age” for decision-making that can affect a person’s life forever.

“It’s pretty much right before you can drink (of age),” said Leamer. “You have to decide, ‘Should I go out to drink or stay home?’”

Alcohol abuse, Rosston told East Middle School teachers recently, is a major cause of suicide and along with guns, figures heavily into the high rate of suicide in Montana. The state ranks No. 1 in the nation in alcohol consumption, No. 1 in DUIs and No. 4 in teen binge-drinking, statistics show.

“These kids have absolutely nothing to do in town and have no other choice but to drink,” added Leamer. “So by hosting constant events and activities, we plan on changing the stereotype of drinking while in high school. Instead, we’ll have fun together in a positive and productive way.”

Adults, like those with the Butte-Silver Bow Suicide Prevention Committee that comprises 20 agencies, have coalesced around suicide prevention in recent months. But from Leamer’s standpoint, action starts with him.

“After the suicides, I snapped and decided to stop complaining and get something done,” he said. “I’m tired of waiting around to hear about another life taken too soon.”

In short, Leamer said, it will take kids working with kids to change the complex culture that causes suicide.

“There is no way of completely stopping suicide, but there are ways of preventing it,” Leamer added. “The adults in the community have been doing great in trying to find solutions, but the only way you can get kids’ attention is through other kids.”

— Contact Birkenbuel at Renata.Birkenbuel@mtstandard.com or 406-496-5512.

Copyright 2015 Montana Standard. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. tferguson
    Report Abuse
    tferguson - March 06, 2014 12:01 am
    random thought: maybe if someone paid for you to have parties and make friends when you were younger then perhaps someone somewhere would have enjoyed your company at some point and you wouldn't be running head on into a miserable old age where you get on the internet to rage against those dang kids for having the audacity to not want other kids to die

    but hey, i'm on the pro-"kids shouldn't kill themselves" side of this issue so maybe you and i will have to agree to disagree
  2. tferguson
    Report Abuse
    tferguson - March 05, 2014 7:07 pm
    watch out everyone the hoodlums are coming to swindle our small businesses!

    because we all apparently live in the 1950s when people who used the word hoodlums weren't laughed at for being old and not very smart
  3. tferguson
    Report Abuse
    tferguson - March 05, 2014 7:06 pm
    did you know that you can't find 501(c)3 paperwork in the bottom of a trash can

    the implication I am making is that you only searched a trash can for the aforementioned 501(c)3 because that is where you live

    in a trash can, i mean
  4. icesk8er
    Report Abuse
    icesk8er - March 04, 2014 9:01 am
    wonderful job Kal! Thank you for all you have done, and will continue to do.
  5. Silverhio
    Report Abuse
    Silverhio - March 04, 2014 5:03 am
    Kids, please ignore the rude and abusive comments of LOLButtes, who bashes Butte's best all the time. He said no one paid for his parties. How out of touch, out of line, and not even true.
  6. Mom
    Report Abuse
    Mom - March 03, 2014 11:48 pm
    Every person has a purpose. Suicide robs family and friends of many things...it is horrible and hard to overcome. Nothing changes unless someone tries to make a difference...These kids care enough to try and make Butte a better place for the next generation! I am greatful that my young children now have a better support system in place to get thru the difficult teenage years! You have just begun but children and parents for years to come will be greatful that you stepped up and took this problem and challenge on! Thank you for being a compassionate leader and a caring friend to all! The world needs more people like you! Everyone can make a difference in their community if they see a need and work at making a solution instead of complaining and blaming others. FTW...don't let anything or anybody hold you back!
    Report Abuse
    BUTTEMOMMY - March 03, 2014 9:41 pm
    There is always someone who has something to see. Good work kal!
  8. seenitall
    Report Abuse
    seenitall - March 03, 2014 9:32 pm
    Do us all a favor and move to somewhere sunny and perfect where you can live with other perfect people such as yourself. We'll stay up here with the people who care about one and other instead of always worrying about who's getting money for what. Get the clue here. I'll spell it out slowly for you....... it. isn't. about. money.... it's. about. caring. for. another. valuable. and. beautiful. life.....
    Get it?
    Got it?
  9. dancergirl
    Report Abuse
    dancergirl - March 03, 2014 9:08 pm
    Keep up the good work!!!
  10. dancergirl
    Report Abuse
    dancergirl - March 03, 2014 9:07 pm
    Wow, LOLButtes, you are pathetic!!! These children who committed suicide needed help as did all people who commit suicide It's not a coward's way out! They needed help. Project Life is trying to help the teens in this community who feel they don't have anyone to turn to or talk to. Project Life, you have my support and the support of most of the people in this community. Keep up the good work..
  11. Kate Martin
    Report Abuse
    Kate Martin - March 03, 2014 8:58 pm
    Bravo Kal! What a gracious reply! LOLButtes reply does seem rather off the mark but there are people that have so much pain and negativity in their lives that it spills over into others. Yes, there are people out there that are easy to get along with, but there are also people out there that are very hard to get along with. Both types deserve the same amount of compassion if they are in a bad place. "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Plato

    You are a very kind young man Kal and I'm certain you already knew about people fighting personal battles. Just remember a duck can only swim because the water rolls off its feathers and it keeps itself clean. Onward and upward Kal, you are a treasure! Kate Martin
  12. Kal Leamer
    Report Abuse
    Kal Leamer - March 03, 2014 7:53 pm
    My name is Kal Leamer and I created Project: Life. I am a first year college student at Montana tech going into welding technologies and metals fabrication. I would like to start by saying how humbled I am to be surrounded by such amazing people who have been supporting us! I cannot begin to pronounce my gratitude to all of you! Secondly, I would like to say how saddened I am for some of your comments.

    Project: Life is a youth driven nonprofit focused on preventing depression and anxiety through events and activities. We will also offer educational seminars that will help those In need of self confidence, self esteem, and social skills.

    We are a subsidiary of TASC and are under their 501c3 that allows us to "claim" to be a nonprofit and put amazing events on for our youth deprived of fun!

    We will be continuing on this amazing road I have been blessed with and no amount of negativity from those unwilling to understand what we are trying to accomplish! I hope those of you questioning our means will educate yourselves on our Facebook page.

    The only way we will change this town clouded by sadness is through our youth and those willing to lead them into a brighter future!

    Thanks again and please understand this is the only way we will get the youth to change!
  13. icesk8er
    Report Abuse
    icesk8er - March 03, 2014 4:45 pm
    another note... Mollie Kirk is no longer with the Butte Celebrations so your argument there is totally irrelevant!
  14. icesk8er
    Report Abuse
    icesk8er - March 03, 2014 4:43 pm
    for one, how can you call these young people "hoodlums" when you have no idea whom they are and what they are about. Two, for you to say that you dont want to see these "hoodlums" "ripping" people off, yeah Im sure thats their main intention. I hope you never have to deal with a suicide, you are very ignorant towards the whole issue here. Why dont you broaden your mind. How is this wasting your money? are you being taxed for it??? NO, its wonderful people with caring hearts donating funds to this. Once again your pathetic...
  15. cknklam
    Report Abuse
    cknklam - March 03, 2014 4:24 pm
    Great outlook and comment there, LOLButtes. Keep it up, if everyone thought like you, NOTHING positive would ever get done! Way to go!!
  16. cknklam
    Report Abuse
    cknklam - March 03, 2014 4:22 pm
    Great outlook and comment there, LOLButtes. Keep it up, if everyone thought like you, NOTHING positive would ever get done! Way to go!!
  17. LOLButtes
    Report Abuse
    LOLButtes - March 03, 2014 3:56 pm
    Yes. I have concerns about any organization with a faulty masquerade. Our community is easily duped by Mollie Kirk's and Bucket Brigades and I don't want to see a couple of hoodlums ripping off businesses in the name of suicide prevention. No one paid for me to have parties and make friends to avoid suicide. Suicide is a cowards way out and no amount of wasting my money is going to stop that.
  18. icesk8er
    Report Abuse
    icesk8er - March 03, 2014 3:37 pm
    really? thats what your worried about? how pathetic....
  19. icesk8er
    Report Abuse
    icesk8er - March 03, 2014 3:37 pm
    wonderful idea from these young people. Its truly appreciated. You are making the lives of our youngsters that much better.
  20. LOLButtes
    Report Abuse
    LOLButtes - March 03, 2014 2:23 pm
    I'd like to see proof of their own 501c3. I searched. Doesn't exist. Something wrong here.
  21. dancergirl
    Report Abuse
    dancergirl - March 03, 2014 12:43 pm
    Thank you so much for what you are providing for these teenagers!! Even if you can prevent one suicide you are helping!

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