Grant supports suicide intervention outreach in Oshkosh

By Joy Wick • Reader Submitted
May 10, 2012

OSHKOSH — A $5,000 grant from the J. J. Keller Foundation Fund of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation will allow Community for Hope to address an urgent need to support children, teachers and families on the heels of the suicide deaths of two students who attended Merrill Middle School.

Community for Hope of Greater Oshkosh Inc. will provide additional professional counselors for a teen support group that will meet for the first time next week. The funding also will support several community-wide training sessions on suicide prevention this month and in June.

“This really helps us pull in more professional help when these kids start gathering. We really want that support to be there for them,” says Doug Bisbee, executive director of the Community for Hope in Oshkosh.

“Part of the risk we face is not only the grief that young people are struggling with, but they also may be facing suicidal thoughts themselves.”

The J. J. Keller Foundation moved quickly to provide support after hearing the news of the recent suicides, which involved a 14-year-old girl in early May and a 13-year-old girl in April.

“The J. J. Keller Foundation has a keen interest in mental health issues and we are pleased to provide this support,” says Executive Director Mary Harp-Jirschele. “It’s heart breaking to watch families go through these tragedies. We know they need help. The Community for Hope is a great resource for that.”

The professional counselors will work with facilitators of the new Teen SOS (Survivors of Suicide) Support group in Oshkosh. The first meeting will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at the Hooper Community Center, 36 Broad Street, Suite 140. The group is open to teens ages 13 to 19 who have lost someone close to them by suicide. Attendance is free.

Bisbee says the group will offer community-wide QPR Gatekeeper Training later this month and in June. QPR stands for Question, Persuade and Refer, and is a nationally recognized method to teach warning signs and intervention steps to prevent suicide.

The 90-minute sessions will be offered free to the public. The dates and times of those sessions have yet to be set. Those interested can contact the Community for Hope at 920-230-4840 or send an email to

Bisbee noted that while the teen deaths are alarming, the fastest growing age group for suicides are men ages 40 to 50.

“We’ve had nine suicides already this year in Winnebago County and were at a record pace. It’s too high,” Bisbee says. “This is really the time to reach out to kids and parents.”

Additional monetary gifts would allow Community for Hope to offer additional QPR training sessions through county agencies and at workplaces. Please contact the Community Foundation for further information on how to donate.

The Oshkosh Area Community Foundation is a nonprofit charitable organization created by and for the people of Winnebago County, Waushara County, Green Lake County and Ripon. Through charitable giving, the Community Foundation strives to make our communities thrive. For more information, please call 920-426-3993.