Project Hoeppner Shares Hope

Ms. Maddie Baker

Although September is the National Month of Suicide Awareness,  devoted to educating and bringing awareness to mental illness and suicide prevention, Project Hoeppner continues to reach out to young people, encouraging the discussion of how young people can get the help they need, sharing hope for anyone who needs help.

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The goal of Project Hoeppner is to increase awareness around the catastrophe that is teen suicide, to offer courage for teens to say, “I need help,” and to help loved ones hear that message and find the help they need. “ We’re committed to supporting teens and their efforts to support each other,” Hoeppner adds, understanding that suicide can happen with few warning signs.

“ Mental health is as important as physical health. Both can make or break a students experience in school,” says Julie Dimmock, the Snelling House guidance counselor here at CVU. Dimmock then continues to explain the importance of being educated about mental illness. “Even though physical illness is easier to recognize mental illness can still knock you off your game.”

In the fall of 2018 CVU had a very close experience with teen suicide when the community lost a close friend and peer, Paul Hoeppner.  After Paul’s death, his family – Sue, Joe, and Marc took initiative and started Project Hoeppner. “ We are so grateful for this community of ours and of Paul’s and the blanket of love that surrounds us,” said Sue Hoeppner, acknowledging that community support sustains them in their grief. Suicide awareness hits a personal note for many, not only because of a connection with Paul but also for the many others in CVU who struggle with mental illness.

For students who are struggling, at school or in their personal life, CVU has many resources for students experiencing a mental or emotional issues. Dimmock explains that each house has a designated guidance counselor, located in the Direction Center, and two social workers who are trained to counsel young people.

“My role is flexible, I can meet with any students to support their mental health needs and also connect them with other mental health providers if needed. I am also able to respond in a mental health crisis situation,”  says Vanessa Harman, a CVU social worker.

CVU’s SAP counselor, Tim Trevithick who is trained to counsel and educate about substance abuse issues, has an open door policy at his office next to the Direction Center. ” I meet with students about anything and everything, whether its general information or more targeted issues,” Trevithick says. Trevithick’s experience enables him to meet students where they are to seek solutions together.

Another resource is Matt Collins. A personal resource officer from Shelburne, Collins was hired last year as another resource for students to talk to, whether their issues are school-related or something that affects their mental or emotional health in their community. Collins is here to listen and help however he can, with the resources available in his office. “ I make sure it’s clear that it is my duty to report and respond to dangerous situations,” Collins says.

Collins has a background in law enforcement along with a degree in psychology. “ My goal is to make you guys feel as comfortable as I can and develop a relationship with the kids who come and talk to me.”

For students who don’t feel comfortable using the school support staff, there are also opportunities in our communities outside of CVU. Project Hoeppner and CVU both provide support for young people in connection with the Howard Center.

The Howard Center is a state health organization that provides supports and services to address mental health, substance use, and developmental needs. The fastest way to contact the Howard Center, or when an individual needs help in a crisis, is to use First Call. First Call will kindly answer any questions but also help individuals cope with and talk through any current crisis.

“As a therapist in private practice, I appreciate first class ability to work with clients at all hours of the day and night and provide a second set of clinical eyes on my folks when they are in crisis,” said Becky Coburn, a therapist from her private practice in South Burlington.