A Mays Landing mother who lost her daughter to suicide last year is trying to change how schools help students cope with stress, depression and despair.
Carolyn Coburn along with her daughter Megan, have developed “The Spread the Love” foundation in honor of Samantha Coburn. Coburn is working with several area schools including Oakcrest High School to include the program in its curriculum.
Samantha Coburn, 19, hung herself in her bedroom Aug. 14, 2014. The goal of the non-profit organization is to add critical social skills into the curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, in an attempt to insure a positive, kind and successful future for every student.
“We’re trying to find a solution to this teen suicide epidemic,’‘ said Carolyn Coburn, 52. “We need to change our children, they are not getting what they need at home and from society. We need to strengthen their foundation.”
Around the area, some families are using the pain of a loved one taking their own life to assist others in need. In the past 16 months, six high school-age people have committed suicides. At Oakcrest High School, there have been four suicides over the last 16 months, while students at Egg Harbor Township and Ocean City have also taken their own lives.
Two weeks ago, the pair met with local teachers to discuss their plan. The program is built around eight central pillars: awareness, compassion, kindness, loyalty, manners, service, sportsmanship, and respect.
“We want kids to be comfortable going to teachers to discuss these issues and we want teachers to be comfortable listening to students,” Coburn said.
Doreen Marshall, a senior director of education and prevention with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, said people who experience a suicide in their family sometimes try to use the experience to help others.
“When a death like this happens, it’s unexpected and tragic,” Marshall said. “People can go in one of two directions, they can either go into a shell or they can try to help others. It all depends on the person.”
The American Association of Suicidology reports more than 4,000 suicides occur each year for people between the ages of 15 and 24. Suicide accounts for more than 12 percent of deaths among that age group.
For Mary McIntosh the pain of her son’s Matt suicide in Oct. 2011 will always be there. McIntosh now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder because of Matt’s suicide.
Instead of sitting by and letting the pain continue to eat at her, Mary started the Matt McIntosh Foundation as a way to honor her late son and help those in need. In the years since, Mary McIntosh has hosted weekly dinners for people impacted by Matt’s death and runs a facebook page dedicated to suicide prevention. The page features post on various area support groups, as well as articles dedicated to helping those dealing with depression.
“We have to try to help, it gives us a reason to live,’‘ McIntosh said. “It’s our way of keeping the memory of our children alive.”