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Welcome to the next installment in our “Who Gives a Chip?” series, which celebrates the everyday heroes in our community.  Their passion and commitment to ‘giving a chip,’ inspires us, and we hope it will do the same for you.

Since September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, we reached out to our friends at The Jordan Porco Foundation to learn more about what they are doing to prevent suicide in the high school, college and college entry student population.

The Jordan Porco Foundation was founded in 2011 by Ernie and Marisa Porco after they lost their son, Jordan, to suicide when he was a freshman in college. In their grief, Jordan’s parents became aware of some shocking statistics surrounding mental health and suicide among young adults. Through awareness, education, and programs, The Jordan Porco Foundation is challenging the stigma around mental health, creating a conversation about the prevalence of suicide in the young adult population and – most importantly of all – saving lives.

We sat down with Matt Riley, the Chief Operating Officer of The Jordan Porco Foundation, to learn more about this amazing non-profit from Hartford, CT.

What kinds of things do you do each day, and how do those things contribute to the organization’s overall goals?

The organization delivers programming on college and high school campuses in an effort to educate teenagers and young adults on the warning signs of suicide and the resources that are available to this vulnerable group if they need help.

Can you tell us about some of the Jordan Porco Foundation’s campus events?

Fresh Check Day is our signature program. We work closely with colleges and universities to plan and fund celebratory fair-like events in an effort to bring awareness to mental health resources and coping strategies available. To date, we have held 56 events in nine states, reaching tens of thousands of college students with our life-saving message.

That’s amazing! What are some ways that you are teaching students about mental health who may be concerned about one of their friends?

One in ten college students contemplates suicide. That means nine out of ten students, given the knowledge and resources, have the opportunity to help each one who is struggling.

To combat this issue, we also host a program that we call The Nine out of Ten program. It is designed to educate students about the warning signs of suicide, available resources, and action steps to take if a friend is thinking about suicide. With this knowledge, students are empowered to help their peers if they’re struggling with their mental health.

Are there any new programs you are currently working on?

With the demand for preparatory programming at the high school level, The Jordan Porco Foundation is developing and piloting 4 What’s Next. This future-focused high school program identifies, trains, and empowers student leaders to engage in honest discussions and peer-to-peer education about mental health, personal wellness, and the transition to life after high school. We have piloted this program in two schools so far.

What is the hardest part of what you do?

Combating the stigma associated with this sensitive subject. Many people struggle with talking about the issue of suicide and mental health.

What makes it all worth it to you?

Receiving a testimonial from a student that they abandoned a plan to take their own life after attending one of our programs.

What would you tell someone who is looking to make a difference in their community?

Have the courage to talk about this issue, to intervene if a friend or loved one is experiencing distress, or to seek help if you are experiencing it yourself.

If you would like to learn more about The Jordan Porco Foundation and to get involved, learn more here.

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