Addressing the stigma: Tri-State woman trying to lower teen suicide rates

Published: Sep. 14, 2023 at 3:18 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A Tri-State woman created a nonprofit to help decrease teen suicide rates.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens and young adults in the United States, according to the CDC.

Terri Hopton started Mishpachah Inc. (MISH) to address the topic of teen suicide. She says her mission is saving lives.

As part of her efforts, Hopton and her nonprofit go around high schools to put on “Dead Serious...About Life,” a play that focuses on a student killing themselves.

For the past 35 years, she has brought the production to life with the help of student actors from area schools.

“We travel around to high schools all over the country,” explains Hopton.

She says it all started as a hobby through her church 40 years ago before they decided to expand the program to schools.

“It was because suicide is so prevalent in our students’ lives,” Hopton explains. “You can’t go to a public school and not hear about it on a daily basis. Every four seconds, a teenager is attempting suicide, but people don’t want to talk about it. Are you kidding me?”

Hopton is not afraid to bring that difficult discussion to schools.

She says she has seen firsthand how the “Dead Serious...About Life” production and the conversations after impact students.

“We were at a show in Northern Kentucky, and a girl after the show walks out of the auditorium, pulls a loaded gun out of her purse, lays it down in front of one of our parents, and says, ‘I won’t be needing this anymore, thank you,’ and walks out of the auditorium,” Hopton recalls. “We were in Piqua, Ohio, and there was a young girl, who was being sexually molested. She walked to the police department after seeing the show and went in and reported it, and police called me in Sidney, Ohio, and said, ‘We just want you to know what you’re doing in this production is giving kids the guts to change their life.’”

Hopton says the secret to the production is kids talking to kids.

Not a single adult is on the stage, and after the show, the students share their real-life stories filled with struggles and triumphs.

Before becoming the Director of MISH, Hopton was a graphic designer but decided to walk away from that career to become a mentor to teens full time.

A calling that she says has been the most fulfilling.

“Knowing that you’re saving people’s lives it’s huge,” says Hopton. “It’s just a sense of relief almost that I’m doing what I am supposed to do. I tell people all the time, I love my job, and I’m like, yeah. Every morning I get up, I can’t wait, and so, I think there’s a difference when you’re really doing something you’re passionate about, and mine is working with teenagers.”

Hopton is now searching for students in grades 8-12 to be a part of the production for this season.

She is holding an open house so students and parents can learn about the show starting Sept. 17 and going through Sept. 24.

Auditions will be held in October, and she says no prior acting experience is necessary, just a good heart.

Find more information about MISH Inc. online.

If you, or anyone you know are having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.

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