By Rachel Papke
The Jordan Porco Foundation (JPF) is a Hartford-based non-profit foundation founded in 2011 by Marisa Giarnella-Porco and Ernie Porco after their son Jordan Porco died by suicide while a freshman in college. JPF’s mission is to prevent suicide, promote mental health, and create a message of hope for young adults. They accomplish their mission through innovative peer-based programs conducted in partnership with colleges and high schools. The journey started with tragedy and has evolved into a critical message of hope for young adults.
“Five years, five months, five days, five hours, five minutes, five seconds—it all feels the same. The loss of you has been huge to your whole family, we will never be the same. But the one thing that we have all vowed to do is make sure we continue to live, love, and care for everyone around us like you taught us. Your loss has saved so many. Thank you for giving us the strength to do what we do with your foundation and mission,” said Porco.
In five years, JPF has grown to become a nationally recognized leader in the field of suicide prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young adults aged 15-24 in the U.S.1 We know that more than 2 million college students (out of 20 million total) contemplate suicide, and that 1.2 million high school students (out of 14.9 million total) attempt suicide each year.2 Young adult suicide is a major public health concern, which has led to the formation of a National Suicide Prevention Strategy. JPF’s primary prevention programs connect with and are advised by National Strategy. Their programs have been designed to fill gaps in existing suicide prevention strategies in schools and communities.
With the generous support of private donors, corporate sponsorships, and foundation grants, JPF provides critical mental health awareness programming for young adults. By forming partnerships with high schools, two and four year colleges, community organizations, foundations, and leading prevention providers, JPF delivers innovative programs that increase awareness of the mental health resources and services available to young adults.
JPF’s goal is to break through the misconceptions around mental health and suicide that often deter individuals from seeking help with programs designed to empower peers to be gatekeepers by understanding the warning signs and knowing what to do if a friend is exhibiting signs of suicide or a mental health concern. Since inception, JPF has engaged tens of thousands of students. The programming empowers young adults to take charge of their mental health.
“We’ve received incredible support from our network of friends, family, business leaders, colleges, and universities. This generosity has been integral to expanding recognition of our suicide prevention and mental health promotion programs for colleges and universities—nationwide. At our 5th Annual Gala we’ll journey through the beginning, the progress along the way, and what’s next. This generation of young adults is our future and our network of supporters enables us to continue on our journey to provide young adults with a message of hope,” said Giarnella-Porco.
On April 2, 2016, JPF will host their 5th Annual Jordan’s Journey Gala at Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. You are invited to purchase tickets to this year’s Jordan’s Journey Gala. JPF is incredibly grateful for kindness—the theme of this year’s Gala. The kindness of many continues to instill hope and is a catalyst for change.
JPF will present four awards including the Community Mental Health Advocate of the Year Award to United States Senator Chris Murphy, who will be in attendance, in recognition of his advocacy of mental health legislation in Congress.
The Perfect Promotion will sponsor the evening’s keynote speaker. Jody Ferrer, President of The Perfect Promotion, said, “As a Mother I have a profound heartfelt connection with the Jordan Porco Foundation’s mission. I want to support the journey; to give high school, and college age kids the resources and tools they need to cultivate hope.”
The keynote speaker will be the Emmy Nominated Motivational Speaker and Mental Health Advocate, Jordan Burnham, who tours the country speaking to high school and college-aged students about depression and other mental health issues.
“Over the last three years, I’ve been able to see the difference that the Jordan Porco Foundation is making. This is possible because Marisa and Ernie are creating a culture of talking about mental health and suicide prevention on college campuses. Being a public speaker on mental health awareness is an incredibly rewarding experience, but, one of the best moments of my job was meeting two parents who had the bravery and passion to create such an impactful foundation. It’s an honor that Ernie and Marisa have chosen me to be a part of their mission, their message, and the special night that the 5th Annual Jordan’s Journey Gala will be,” said Burnham.
The numbers are daunting but progress can be made – and is being made – to save lives. Your support helps keep program momentum strong and allows JPF to continue to expand programs nationwide. By supporting the mission to prevent suicide and promote mental health, you are creating a message of hope for the future generation of young adults.
Rachel Papke is Communications Coordinator for the Jordan Porco Foundation. She may be contacted at (860) 904-6041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about the Jordan Porco Foundation at www.rememberingjordan.org
PERSPECTIVE commentaries by contributing writers appear each Sunday on Connecticut by the Numbers.
About the Jordan Porco Foundation
The Jordan Porco Foundation’s mission is to prevent suicide, promote mental health, and create a message of hope for young adults by providing engaging and uplifting programming. Their programming emphasizes peer-to-peer messaging promoting help seeking behavior, self-care, and coping skills. They challenge stigma by talking openly about mental health, and educating about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide and other related mental health concerns.
1 Centers for Disease Control, “Understanding Suicide 2015 Fact Sheet,” National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, http://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/suicide factsheet-‐‐a.pdf
2 National Center for Education Statistics, “Back to School Statistics 2015, http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=372 and Centers for Disease Control, “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance—United States, 2013,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 63.4; 13 June 2014, http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/ss/ss6304.pdf