A Positive Passion and Will

Deborah Burke Henderson, Contributing Writer
Be a supportive friend to the teens in your life
John Trautwein with his son Will. (Photo courtesy of Susie Trautwein)
Issue Date: 
February, 2018
Article Body: 

Teens live in a complicated world today. It’s often a negative one and can involve the further complication of instant exposure on social media. YouTube, Snapchat and Facebook can be a breeding ground for bullying and shaming, and it is critical to provide young people a safety net from these fears.
On March 26, “A Positive Passion and Will,” featuring former Red Sox pitcher John Trautwein, headlines the 2017-2018 POWER (Prevention Outreach While Encouraging Resilience) Series. His overall message: How to be a supportive friend.
Trautwein and his family faced the hardest challenge of their lives with the suicide death of their oldest son, Will, who took his life at age 15. Then a freshman at Northview High School in Duluth, GA, Will Trautwein was a strong, smart athlete and talented musician with countless friends, yet no one realized his inner struggles.
While delivering his son’s eulogy, Trautwein was inspired to create the Will To Live Foundation to support school suicide awareness and prevention initiatives. Based on the concept that it’s easier for young people to talk to their friends than to adults, Trautwein travels the country delivering his message, turning desperation into inspiration. He is dedicated to preventing teen suicide by improving the lives and the “Will To Live” of teenagers through education about mental illnesses like depression and delivering a message of hope to teens everywhere.
Since the foundation’s inception over six years ago, Trautwein has made well over 100 speeches and presentations each year to both parents and students in schools and communities across the country, spreading not only the suicide awareness message, but also the foundation’s message of finding love and hope and support from your friends – your “life teammates” as Trautwein calls them.
The Will To Live Foundation has been recognized on CNN, CBS News, Fox Sports, The Big Ten Network and Fox Sports, just to name a few, and in 2012, Trautwein and his wife, Susie, were awarded the “Presidential Point of Light” award for their work with the foundation.
“We teach the kids, if a kid is talking about hurting himself, you know that a) he is serious and b) you’ve got to do something about it,” Trautwein explains. “Together, they help each other.” The foundation encourages teens to “ACT,” using an acronym created by Screening for Mental Health, Inc., a nonprofit in Wellesley Hills, Mass.
A is for “Acknowledge.” Listen to your friend; don’t ignore threats.
C is for “Care.” Let your friend know you care.
T is for “Tell.” Tell a trusted adult that you are worried about your friend.
“If people know that kids like Will can and often do commit suicide, they might just approach things a little differently,” Trautwein explains.
According to a 2015 study by the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those aged 10-24 in the United States. To put that in perspective, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, AIDS and chronic lung disease combined.
Eileen Davis of Call2Talk and the MetroWest Regional Coalition on Suicide Prevention adds, “There are more than 5,000 suicide attempts per day by teenagers in America, and it’s believed that four out of every five teens who attempt suicide have invited clear warning signs of some sort.”
“We are very excited to share “A Positive Passion and Will” with the entire school community,” Kelley St. Coeur, Ashland High School principal noted. “John’s mission of ‘preventing teen suicide and encouraging teens to recognize the love and hope that exists in each other’ really resonates with what we hope for students at AHS. We want them to know they are part of a community, a “team” where someone is always there for them. We are thrilled to offer this multi-pronged approach to his presentation. He will speak to the entire AHS student body, as well as the 8th graders at Ashland Middle School. He will then work with coaches from Ashland Public Schools and the greater community and speak to parents in the evening.”
As part of an ongoing awareness strategy, the fall Courageous Conversations program will most likely speak to suicide as well. “With these tools, we hope to help reduce the stigma of mental illness, give people a way to be less fearful and help answer the question ‘What can I do?’ when faced with this kind of situation,” volunteer Betsy Emberley added.
Program sponsors are many. From the Ashland Public Schools, PTO, and Youth Soccer to the Decisions at Every Turn Coalition, Town of Ashland and Friends of the Ashland Public Library to the MetroWest Regional Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Call2Talk and Hopkinton Organizing for Prevention and Hopkinton’s Youth and Family Services.
“At Call2Talk, we understand the need to let teens express their frustrations surrounding the difficulties in their own lives,” Director of Call2Talk Davis stated. “We are here to listen and validate feelings so that young people as well as all of our callers do not feel judged but rather accepted for where they are and what they are experiencing. Accepting the difficulties and challenges of teenagers in our society isn’t just necessary, it’s essential to maintaining mental health wellness and balance.”
Save the date for the community presentation, “A Positive Passion and Will,” on Monday, March 26, 2018, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Ashland High School Auditorium.
For more information about the Will To Live Foundation, visit https://will-to-live.org.