Central Montcalm High School Hope Squad student ambassadors gathered this summer for training on strategies for suicide prevention and supporting mental health awareness. Pictured, from left, are Marlee Christensen, Braelyn Bunting, Jordan Petersen, Evelyn Bozung, Erika Thomas, Lucas Jones, Keegan Day, Chase Bliss, Kelsey Ross, and Kendal Stout. Not pictured are Alice Van Kleeck, Hunter Briskey, and Daniel Shepherd.
Suicide Prevention Speaker to Share Her Story at Ludington Middle School & High Schools March 9th, 2020
LUDINGTON, MI; March 9th 2020 – Shandy Longcore, Founder of Embracing Imperfections has been sponsored by Spectrum Health and The Leeward Initiative to share her personal and shocking story with students at Ludington Middle School and High School on Monday March 9th, 2020. She will present at the OJ Dejonge Middle School Auditorium at 7:50am and at the Ludington High School Auditorium at 9:18am. Shandy Longcore grew up in a quaint small town in northwest Lower Michigan, the daughter of two loving parents who never saw the day coming when she would retreat into the basement of their home and try to kill herself. She was only 10 at the time. The night before, Shandy had determined that she just wasn’t pretty enough, and maybe if she took a pair of scissors to her hair, she could change things up. At least people would notice her trying. It backfired, of course, sparking a comment from her dad, who then walked out to the door, expecting Shandy to join him a bit later at the hardware store he owned. Instead, she dusted off a hunting rifle, pointed it at her chest and fired. It missed her heart by inches. Against all odds, she survived. A story in the town paper reported it an accidental shooting. Shandy knew better, and as suicide became talked about more openly, began to share the truth, a little at a time. Today, she walks a stage, looking to share her story with whomever it might help. She figured she’d educate a few people along the way. What she didn’t expect is that she’s learning just as much: About how many people are hurting. And that suicide is too often swept under the rug. And that together, we can prevent it. With self-deprecating humor (“I have only nine toes!”) and an infectious laugh that reveals a joyful heart, Shandy traded in her corporate job for a microphone and a place to make a stand. A graduate of Kalkaska High School and Aquinas College, Shandy starred in track and basketball at both schools. She was soaring as director of a premier health club facility in West Michigan when she finally figured out that her true calling meant telling her story, and listening to those of others. “I want to be a catalyst for change, and for the stigmas attached to mental health,” says Longcore. “Life is precious and too short as it is. We need to work together to find meaning in the everyday, and elevate living to the state of grace that it deserves” continued Longcore. Even today, Shandy carries shrapnel in her chest. It’s a reminder of what could have been. And a way of motivating her to seek out people in need. “I’ll go wherever and whenever to tell my story,” said Longcore. “If it helps even one person talk themselves out of suicide, it will be worth it” continued Longcore.
Shandy can be reached for speaking engagements at www.embracingimperfections.org
Contact: Shandy Longcore; Founder
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tearing down the stigma that surrounds mental health.
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Embracing Imperfections developed as a mission to share the story that we are not all perfect and that we need to embrace our imperfections. This is accomplished by speaking at schools and working to remove the stigma surrounding mental illness and that suicide is not the answer. By reaching young adults and discussing how our imperfections create the unique individual that they are, we believe that we can reverse the rise in suicides among young individuals.
Speaker to address suicide at LASD March 9
Shandy Longcore, Founder of Embracing Imperfections has been sponsored by Spectrum Health and the Leeward Initiative to share her personal story with Ludington Area Schools students on Monday, March 9.
She will present at O.J. DeJonge Middle School at 7:50 a.m., and at Peterson Auditorium at 9:18 a.m.
Longcore grew up in a quaint small town in northwest Lower Michigan, the daughter of two loving parents who never saw the day coming when she would retreat into the basement of their home and try to kill herself at the age of 10.
Against all odds, she survived. A story in the town paper reported it an accidental shooting. Shandy knew better, and as suicide became talked about more openly, began to share the truth, a little at a time.
Today, she walks a stage, looking to share her story with whomever it might help. She figured she’d educate a few people along the way. What she didn’t expect is that she’s learning just as much — about how many people are hurting, and about the degree to which suicide is avoided in discussions.
With self-deprecating humor and an infectious laugh that reveals a joyful heart, Longcore traded in her corporate job for a microphone and a place to make a stand.
A graduate of Kalkaska High School and Aquinas College, Shandy starred in track and basketball at both schools. She was soaring as director of a premier health club facility in West Michigan when she finally figured out that her true calling meant telling her story, and listening to those of others.
“I want to be a catalyst for change, and for the stigmas attached to mental health,” Longcore said. “Life is precious and too short as it is. We need to work together to find meaning in the everyday, and elevate living to the state of grace that it deserves
“I’ll go wherever and whenever to tell my story if it helps even one person talk themselves out of suicide, it will be worth it.”
Shandy can be reached for speaking engagements at www.embracingimperfections.org.
Survivor of suicide attempt, motivational speaker addresses students at Greenville High School
GREENVILLE — As a 10-year-old girl growing up in the rural village of Kalkaska in northern Michigan, Shandy Longcore’s childhood was spent being loved in a community where everyone knew everyone.
But as she revealed Tuesday, that child who should have been living without a concern in the world in the summer of 1991 instead felt alone and unloved, living in pain and anguish.
“I was a small-town kid living in a small-town world, like many of you,” she said during an assembly at Greenville High School. “Maybe you can relate to how I was raised, maybe not, but what you probably didn’t endure were feelings of inadequacy, at least as severe as those I did at just the age of 10 years old.”
Longcore wasn’t neglected and she wasn’t abused — quite the contrary, as she was born into a family with loving parents.
“By all accounts, I was destined to grow up as a fairly normal kid with a fairly promising future,” she said. “Looking back, I initially considered that I was simply over-obsessing, but what I know now, I was likely suffering from some form of mental illness that met its match on a really, really bad day.”
Hoping to reach students who might be suffering from a mental illness, Longcore shared her story in detail.
On Aug. 23, 1991, that “really, really bad day” came, and Longcore’s life changed forever — just not in the way she imagined.
With the start of her fifth-grade year of school right around the corner, a look in the mirror didn’t inspire any feelings of confidence or happiness. As a result, she felt a change was necessary.
“For some unknown reason, I felt unloved, even though I was loved. In my adolescent mind, I actually felt that if I cut my hair, I would go to my mom and she would buy me a wig, and I’d feel pretty — because I didn’t feel pretty,” she said.
So Longcore cut off her hair — all of it — only to awake the next fateful day to enter into an argument with her father.
“When my dad came home to see what I was up to and why I wasn’t working at the hardware store, he asked, ‘what in the world did you do to your hair?’” Longcore said. “I landed myself in a major argument with my dad. The kind of argument you never forget about, that leaves a little scar on your heart.”
Following that argument, Longcore said she was left alone to ponder her next move, and unfortunately, “chose the wrong one.”
She made her way to the basement where she knew her late grandfather’s 30-30 hunting rifle, which had been handed down to her brother, was stored.
“Unfortunately, it was not locked up. Without thinking, without writing a note, I decided I wanted that pain to end … the pain of not feeling pretty, not feeling loved,” Longcore said.
She grabbed the gun, managed to load it, and aimed the barrel at her chest.
“At this point, I need to be very emphatic with you all,” Longcore paused. “I don’t want anyone in this room to accuse me of glorifying that moment, because what happened next was not only the most trauma I endured, but I think back time and time again about the intense and unspeakable pain I subjected my friends and family to.”
Unsure of what side of her chest her heart was on, at the last second, Longcore can remember shifting the rifle from her left side to her right — mistakenly away from her heart — and she pulled the trigger.
She fell forward to the ground, beginning to go in and out of consciousness.
Because she missed her heart, the 10-year-old girl found herself not deceased but instead clinging to life.
“Instead … I wanted to live — just like that,” Longcore said.
Something she can only describe as a miracle, Longcore’s mother came home from work early that day to find her daughter dying on the basement floor.
Her mother tended to her, calling her father and then the hospital.
“That argument, it no longer mattered. It was gone. What mattered now was that I survive, that I live,” Longcore said.
Longcore found herself in the hospital, speaking to her parents, nurses and doctors, repeating the same words over and over again: “I’m sorry.”
After life-saving surgery and many weeks of recovery, Longcore survived the attempt to take her own life — an attempt she says never should have taken place.
THE POWER OF ONE
Now 28 years removed from that incident, she is hopeful her story and platform, “Embracing Imperfections,” can inspire students today to ask for help when needed and not turn to the same decision she made as a young child.
“Instead of succumbing and being carried in a casket to the cemetery … by the grace of God, I pulled through, and I’m here now talking to you,” she said. “I came to realize that I was loved. I do matter. Even at 10 years old, perhaps especially at 10 years old, again, I counted and I mattered. It was a beautiful thing for me to actually realize that I was going to get a second chance at this thing called life. Having a different head of hair didn’t matter in the least.”
Longcore pleaded with students at Greenville to accept that mental illnesses are as severe, if not more so, than physical injuries or illnesses, and should be treated as such.
“Why is it so easy for us to say, ‘I’m physically ill, I have the flu, I need help,’ but many times we refuse to use that same voice, and instead hide in a dark corner, instead of saying ‘I need help,’ with mental illness?” she said. “Talk to your friend. Talk to your teacher. Talk to your counselor, your pastor. Use your voice and talk, and if someone is talking to you, listen.
“Maybe, just maybe, we should be treating our mental health symptoms like we do our physical symptoms,” she continued. “The same thing goes for anxiety, depression, being bipolar. With all of those things, we should be getting help. There’s something going on and it’s OK to treat it.”
Longcore said she has turned to a mindset known as the Power of One, which she hopes to be adopted by anyone struggling in life.
“In the aftermath of my episode, I came to understand and believe in the Power of One. I believe in the power that just one person can affect someone else’s life in a big way,” she said. “In the same amount of time it took for that bullet to pass through my chest, it also took that same amount of time from me wanting the pain to end — wanting to die — to wanting to live, and it was a millisecond,” she said. “It is within you today to develop your coping strategy if and/or when you find yourself in a really tough spot. So who are you going to call? Who are you going to reach out to?”
In concluding the assembly, Longcore had a final message she hopes will stay in the minds of those she spoke to.
“You are loved, even if you don’t feel it. You are pretty or handsome, even if you don’t see it. And you were given this life for a reason, even if you can’t grasp those details just yet,” she said. “Fight to figure that out, and I promise it will be worth the struggle because inside every one of our powerful and healing hearts lives the Power of One.”
Greenville High School Principal Michael Leiter said bringing Longcore to the school to speak was a joint effort between the school, Spectrum Health, and students working with the Be Nice Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
“We’re trying to be responsive to what our community and what our kids are telling us and just being aware with what is going on with some of the issues these kids are dealing with,” he said. “Spectrum is a huge partner with us, our Be Nice team is always looking for new messages and guest speakers to help bring in resources for our kids to help against mental health issues.”
One of those resources includes a new telemedicine clinic implemented at the high school this year. Through that program, Spectrum Health Social Worker Mandi Hyson, with her physical office at Spectrum Kelsey Hospital in Lakeview, performs virtual appointments with students who need assistance at the school.
“We have probably four appointments a day, and that’s between 7:30 a.m. and noon, so we are really busy,” she said. “It’s just incredible, the amount that the kids have responded positively to it. I think providing counseling services during their school day takes away some of the barriers. It’s kind of a perfect fit.”
Students such as junior Ashton Brimmer, 16, who is involved with the Be Nice program, said she’s hopeful more students take advantage of the telemedicine clinic.
“The fact that we have the telemedicine specialist set up, I feel like that will definitely be used more because it wasn’t really known to many students, that there are resources for them,” she said. “I definitely think that it was super important to hear today’s message. It was very eye-opening. It made us more aware, and I think the whole student body, more aware. This isn’t something that should be rushed under the rug, it’s definitely something that we should focus more on as a community.”
Those struggling with a mental illness are encouraged to text the National Suicide Text Hotline at 741741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to speak with a counselor.