By Aidan Judge-North Star Reporter Intern
Whether it’s awarding grants to high schools, holding fundraisers in their late son’s honor, or stimulating the presence of mental health conversations in New England schools, one word comes to mind to describe KyleCares—determined.
Over its first year in operation, the non-profit has completed a multitude of projects with the goal of increasing mental health awareness and support throughout local schools. Founded in the spring of 2019, KyleCares Inc. was created with dedication to issues such as mental health awareness and suicide prevention. The organization is named in honor of North Attleborough residents Jim and Sue Johnson’s son, Kyle, who passed away by suicide in April of 2018.
“Our first year went very well. Our hope is to continue Kyle’s legacy of caring for others
through this foundation in his name, with a focus on helping other teens and young adults who
might struggle with mental health issues,” said Jim, co-founder of the non-profit.
The goal of the organization is also met with some staggering statistics that show just how serious the issue of mental health in young people can be.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for U.S. teens and young adults, and numbers from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) show suicide spiked by 56 percent for 10-24 year old’s between 2007-2017,” said Jim. He hopes to help schools better prioritize this issue, and make it a regular part of standard education.
Since March of 2019, KyleCares has launched a successful series of projects to help the cause of mental health awareness and suicide prevention. Its first fundraising event, KylePalooza, received an overwhelming amount of support from local businesses, sports teams and families in North Attleborough, as well as guidance from State Rep. Betty Poirier.
“We could not have asked for a better night, and it was all due to the support of so many wonderful people who helped us raise over $100,000 in our first year,” said Jim.
KyleCares has also given charitable donations to dozens of local schools over the past year, with the money being used to increase and strengthen the presence of mental health support in school systems. Oftentimes, these grants are given to one of the many strategic partners of KyleCares, including (but not limited to) The Jed Foundation and Active Minds. Donations have been used to train faculty on how to look for signs of mental health issues, suicide prevention workshops, and crisis hotlines for students.
Jim believes that everyone in society has a role to play when it comes to supporting others with mental health issues.
“Schools and communities as a whole need to work together to create an environment of hope and security for students and their families so that nobody feels ashamed to seek help,” he said. “We need to convince students and their caregivers that mental illness does not represent a personal failure.”
Although the non-profit expands across a variety of local towns, KyleCares has received monumental support and collaboration directly from their hometown here in North Attleborough.
“Already at the high school, principal Peter Haviland and his team brought in a young adult speaker last spring to present to 150+ students, and last month he helped lead the formation of the school’s first-ever Active Minds Chapter,” said Jim. “Peer-to-peer support can be very powerful, and NAHS students in the Active Minds group will be encouraging their peers to learn more and talk more about mental health.”
As its second year begins, he hopes to build on the success of the institution by expanding their network of partners, as well as finding new collaborators and schools to work with.
“We are learning more and more every day about the depth of the mental health crisis among teens and young adults, and the smarter we become the more helpful we can be for schools we meet with,” he said.