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LivingWorks Virtual Youth Summit shines a light on mental wellness and suicide prevention


Sep 9, 2020

San Diego, CA - September 9, 2020 - On September 15, actress Lexi Underwood, from the popular Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere, and International Slam Dunk Champion Kenny Dobbs are among a handful of high profile personalities who will speak to California middle and high school students at the LivingWorks Youth Summit with one main message: together, we can save lives from suicide. The virtual Summit is the official launch of the CDE’s online suicide prevention training for staff and students.

TikTok star and comedian Caitlin Reilly will emcee the online streaming event, which also features MTV Push new artist nominee Tate McRae, two-time America’s Got Talent winner and cardistry artist Shin Lim and YouTube vlogger Lavendaire. The speakers will share their own struggles of mental health, resilience and hope, intertwined with music, performances and interviews. The line-up is diverse and attempts to meet youth where they are - online and at home.

Sutter Health, the California Department of Education and the San Diego County Office of Education have partnered with LivingWorks, a global leader in suicide prevention training, to host the Summit.

LivingWorks Start is a 90-minute online suicide prevention skills training program available at no cost to CDE staff, teachers and students through the 58 county offices of education. The $1.7 million funding for the program was secured by Assemblymember Marc Berman in accordance with AB 1808.

“This Summit is a one of a kind event; we’ve never done anything like this before,” says Tony Thurmond, Superintendent of Public Instruction. “But we also know that our students are facing unprecedented levels of stress, anxiety and isolation. We think the Summit is a unique way to unite all students in the state around this very important initiative and will provide them reassurance that they are not alone in their struggles, and there is a way to help each other through difficult times.”

Teen suicide attempt survivor Emma Benoit will share her powerful story with the students. Benoit attempted suicide at 17, just as she was entering her senior year of high school. The popular teen hid years of depression and anxiety, which resurfaced with a vengeance in high school. Her attempt left her temporarily paralyzed and in a wheelchair. After months of emotional and physical healing, Benoit is now sharing her story in an upcoming documentary and with students at the Summit.

“I never wanted to live more than the day I was dying,” says Benoit. “I instantly regretted it. And it has been a long road back. We, as teens, are just so hard on ourselves. And, we’re afraid of disappointing others. We need to start being honest with ourselves, friends and loved ones. If we’re in pain, reach out - we all have a role to play in preventing another suicide.”

Safety is a cornerstone of LivingWorks training, and the Youth Summit is no exception. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Teen Line and The Trevor Project have partnered with the Summit to provide text, phone and email support to students who may need it during and after the Summit.

“At LivingWorks, we talk about creating networks of safety where we live, work and play,” notes LivingWorks president Rick Trimp.”Through our partnership with the California Department of Education, we are training students, staff and teachers to tune in to those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide, and use their new skills to connect that person to help.”

The Summit will livestream to all staff and students in school districts throughout California on September 15 at 1:00 p.m., and will be available to the public on September 16 on the LivingWorks Youth Summit website and LivingWorks YouTube channel. In addition to lead sponsor, Sutter Health, other sponsors helping to make the event a reality are the San Diego Union Tribune, KCRA/My58, NAMI California, the California Restaurant Association Foundation, Lifeline, Teenline and The Trevor Project.

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About LivingWorks: LivingWorks is the world’s leading provider of suicide prevention training and solutions. Striving for a world free from suicide loss, LivingWorks has more than 35 years of history and expertise. The organization has trained 2.3 million people in over 30 countries worldwide. Its programs have been evaluated in more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, and its LivingWorks ASIST and LivingWorks safeTALK programs are recognized best practices used by a wide variety of groups including crisis lines, schools, workplaces, and military services.

Media Contacts:

Daniel Thigpen
Director of Communications
California Department of Education

Music Watson
Chief of Staff
San Diego County Office of Education

Owen Stockden
Marketing and Communications Manager