MUSCATINE, Iowa–To highlight the importance of mental health, especially during Mental Health Awareness Month in May, Alma and Brian Brunson, founders of the M;caela’s Hope Foundation, spoke to students at Susan Clark Junior High School. The pair shared what they have learned about suicide prevention as well as a special gift created for each student by Silas Hoffman, a graduate of Muscatine High School.
To honor the memory of their daughter, Micaela Brunson, Alma and Brian Brunson started the M;caela’s Hope Foundation. The organization works to provide suicide prevention education in the Muscatine area and in local schools and that offers the Micaela L. Brunson Memorial Scholarship for Muscatine High School students interested in pursuing a career in a helping profession. As part of this work, the Brunson’s visit area schools to teach students what they can do to get mental health support and prevent suicides.
May 20, The Brunsons gave presentations to all of the seventh and eighth grade students at Susan Clark Junior High School. They shared their experience with their daughter’s suicide, and how the positive impact she had on so many people during her life inspired them to continue helping others.
They also shared that many people who know someone who committed suicide feel completely blindsided because mental health conditions, which may contribute to suicidal thoughts, often do not have outwardly visible symptoms. Additionally, people suffering from these illnesses may go to great lengths to hide their suffering, as they may feel stigmatized for sharing their struggles. “Mental illness is a disease, not a flaw,” Alma Brunson stressed.
In order to prevent future suicides, the Brunson’s urged anyone dealing with the symptoms of mental illnesses to reach out to their family, teachers, or doctors to get help. “If you are struggling or in a dark place, please reach out to someone and share your pain; you are beautiful in your brokenness,” Alma Brunson said.
At the end of each assembly, all students received a M;caela’s Hope keychain with both the Suicide Prevention text and call line numbers on it. Alma Brunson encouraged students to take a photo of their keychain as well so they would always have these numbers with them if they ever needed them. The Brunsons felt grateful to Hoffman for 3D printing the keychains and donating them to the M;caela’s Hope Foundation to give out at schools and large public gatherings. Alma Brunson shared, “we are thankful for his support and collaboration and for sharing his talents.”
By connecting with students in area schools and helping them understand what they can do to prevent suicides, the Brunsons feel they have used their grief productively to help others find the support and mental health resources they need to respond to the challenges in their lives. Alma Brunson has found the responses students have to their talks touching, as they often have students thank them, offer their condolences to them, or share a hug or a cry with them at the end of their presentations. Through all of their talks, Alma Brunson hopes students: “hear they are not alone, they are loved, and their pain is valid. We hope no one has to go through what we go through each day.”