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15 Minutes With: Jim Flint

BY NAN BIALEK
PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Feb. 2018

When a group of North Shore families decided to take action to prevent teen suicide, they focused on helping young people develop a sense of balance in their lives and learn to be resilient in a high-stress world. The organization they founded is REDgen — resiliency (R), education (E) and determined (D) to make a difference in the health of a new generation (gen). With a history of leading organizations aimed at helping young people thrive, Mequon native Jim Flint took the reins as REDgen executive director in October.
 

Tell us about the origins of REDgen.

In 2013, during that summer, there were a number of youth suicides. A group of parents came together to grieve and support the families, and conversations quickly grew to, “What can we do about this?” They started brainstorming in the midst of their grief about what they can do to support the health and well-being of young people.
 

What do you see as the biggest stressors for youth?

The stresses of school, the pressures of success, the pressures of achievement in a lot of cases, social pressures and the pressure to fit in. Social media plays a huge part in that social stress and pressure.
 

How does REDgen promote balance and resilience?

We have three (programming) prongs: a community health prong, a schools group and an interfaith group. We interact with over 70 schools on a quarterly basis. It’s a mix of administrators and teachers who meet to discuss best practices.

Our community health group has parent wellness circles that meet to discuss the challenges and joys of parenting. They are led by Holly Stoner, one of our board members, who has a lot of expertise in mental health. It’s a tremendous resource for parents in building expertise in how to approach mental health for their kids.

The interfaith group is a number of congregations that meet to share best practices. They have study days to provide a kind of celebratory environment for young people as they have exams. It’s a way for students to have breaks and study, but in a low-stress way.
 

How are students participating in suicide prevention?

REDgen student groups are in a number of high schools, advocating for healthy mental health in the school. They’ll do documentary screenings with expert panels, educational programs — it’s really a peer-to-peer kind of goal. We know that kids are much more likely to talk to a peer if they are struggling. There’s a suicide prevention training meant for adults, but we adopted it with the blessing of the national organizations because it’s important for youth to know the signs of suicide ideation so they can help their friends.
 

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from young people?

I think we often approach youth work from the perspective of teaching youth or providing a service or leading them. But the magic really happens when you open doors for youth and let them reach their full potential. The intelligence, knowledge and beauty of youth is what I always find most inspiring.


MY FIVE FAVORITE THINGS!

1 Family and friends.I have a great, supportive family and friends network.

2 A part-time life-coaching practice. Helping others develop personally and find fulfillment in their lives is a real passion of mine.

3 Time in nature — hiking, biking, walking in Milwaukee’s parks along the lake.

4 My meditation practice.

5 Travel, especially to warm destinations during Wisconsin winters.


 
























This story ran in the Feb. 2018 issue of: