PALM HARBOR, Fla. — It’s a place to sit and a place to save. A new, bright yellow bench is now attracting attention at Carwise Middle School.
It’s a suicide awareness bench designed by the charity Josh’s Benches. Inscribed in big, bold lettering is this message: "If You’re in Crisis and Want to Talk, Call 988."
988 is the nation’s Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. Calls made to 988 are answered by local agencies with suicide prevention experts on the line.
Principal Chad Eiben unveiled the bench Friday in front of staff and students active in the school’s SAVE club. SAVE club members endeavor to keep the school safe from violence and an inclusive place to learn.
Eiben says the issue of mental health hits home at Carwise because the school has lost a student to suicide. He says even at this young age, there’s no reason not to talk about it and how to get help.
“What I tell the kids, ‘If you hurt your arm you go to the doctor. If your mental health is hurting, you need to get help for that as well. It’s no different,'” Eiben explained.
13-year-old Shai-Autumn Mei says the 988 number will make it easier for students to seek help, because some students may find it easier to talk with someone over the phone.
“I think it’s really nice that we now have something because a lot of people didn’t feel comfortable going to counselors and now, they can go to someone who doesn’t know them and that they don’t have to face them every day," Mei said.
A $5,000 grant from 10 Tampa Bay and our parent company, TEGNA’s Foundation, is helping place the benches in our area. In the coming weeks, benches will also be placed at Northeast High School, St. Petersburg High School, and USF.