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
MY FIVE FAVORITE THINGS!
1 Family and friends.I have a great, supportive family and friends
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
4 My meditation practice.
5 Travel, especially to warm destinations during Wisconsin winters.