How self-care kits are connecting youth to services

How self-care kits are connecting youth to services

Utah is grappling with one of the highest suicide rates in the United States among young people but the Juvenile Justice and Youth Services (JJYS), which falls under Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), has come up with a practical way to make a difference.

Danny Caldwell, JJYS’s Clinical Supervisor of Secure Care, said his team wanted to find a way both to maintain a connection with children who came into contact with their services and to intervene early to keep them out of long-term secure facilities.

“In Utah, we have one of the highest suicide rates in the country,” he explained.
“While we haven't had a youth die from suicide in a facility in close to 20 years, we are losing kids in the community. So I was looking at how we can prepare the youth and the families best for when we release them.”

The JJYS is partnered with SafeSide Prevention and works closely with children in youth centres and detention facilities.

The team developed the concept of a self-care kit with items for both young people and their parents or carers to help create a safe environment and provide coping tools and strategies. 

With funding from the Zero Suicide Initiative government grant, the DHHS team purchased  items to include in the box. 

“On the harm reduction side of things, we purchased lock boxes that parents can use to lock up firearms, medications, sharps, etc., and then we also purchased barrel locks for guns,” Mr Caldwell said. 

“Then, for self-care, we have kids as young as nine years old and going up to the early 20s, so we bought a whole bunch of weighted blankets that we can send out the door, we have weighted blankets and weighted stuffed animals.”

“Then we have our distress tolerance kits, which are backpacks with a little book that has all the distress tolerance and emotional regulation DBT skills in there alongside colored pencils, a journal, sketchpad, fidget toys, bubbles, playing cards.”

The kits are about equipping young people with skills, supplying them with creative outlets to use when they are distressed, and providing information on suicide hotlines and services they can reach out to for help.

The idea first came to life about 12 months ago, and since then, the team has handed out 100 kits, with supplies ready and waiting to make another 300 due to the initiative's popularity. 

Mr Caldwell said it was fantastic to see the response to the kits as they continued to look for new ways to help vulnerable youth.

Acknowledgement of Country
SafeSide Prevention acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we live and work. We recognise and respect that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People are the First Peoples and Traditional Custodians of this country. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples

Acknowledgement of Lived Experience
We acknowledge the lived experience of those with suicide and mental illness, their families and carers. Their preferences, wishes, needs, and aspirations are at the heart of all the work we do.

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