Kelly Haskins has a dream: to get a 988 sticker on every child’s laptop. It’s a simple idea, but in times of crisis, it could help save someone’s life.
Those three digits connect to the suicide and crisis lifeline nationwide, either through a phone call or a text. It’s a resource Haskins wishes her son, Hunter, had known about.
Because of that hope, soon every Brevard student in middle and high school will have a 988 sticker on their school laptop, provided by Haskins’ nonprofit, Do It For Hunter.
“Knowing he was physically at his laptop … I wish he had had the 988 number in front of his face to reach out for help,” Haskins said.
In September 2021, Haskin’s son Hunter, an 18-year-old Merritt Island High School graduate and University of Central Florida student, died by suicide. When he was found, his laptop was still open. He’d just failed a math test.
Just a day later, his teacher emailed him to reassure him the test wouldn’t tank his overall grade. He never got to read that email.
Since then, Haskins’ hope has been that every student would have a resource in times of crisis.
It’s a project that’s been in the works for about five months, she said.
“This was my Christmas miracle,” she said.
Getting everything prepped for 75,000 stickers to be distributed throughout Brevard’s schools involved getting the OK from Superintendent Mark Rendell and Chief of Schools James Rehmer III (Hunter’s former principal at Merritt Island High School); fundraising; and enlisting the help of Merritt Island high-schoolers in cutting out the stickers.
On Jan. 11, the stickers were finally ready to be delivered to BPS principals, and a message was sent the following day to parents, letting them know the meaning behind the stickers. Stickers will be placed on laptops throughout the district in the coming days, said Russell Bruhn, spokesperson for the district.
“Our goal is to keep (our students) safe, and also to have them be academically successful,” he said.
“And part of being safe is obviously physical safety, but it’s also emotional, mental safety. And so this is just a tool that we can add so that if somebody is in a crisis situation, hopefully it will help them not make a decision that is permanent.”
The decision was made to start the stickers with sixth graders and up because that’s when students start learning about mental health as part of their curriculum.
“We want to address mental health as best we can, and this is just part of that,” Bruhn said.
211 Brevard, a not-for-profit organization that connects people on the Space Coast with resources in times of crisis, helped pay for the stickers. Each year, they handle about 60,000 calls and texts requesting help in areas like mental health, finances, rental assistance and more. They’re one of the many groups nationwide that helps handle calls to 988, and last year, they took 5,302 calls — more than double the calls they received the prior year at their 10-digit lifeline.
“There is no wrong number to call for help in Brevard,” said Belinda Stewart, 211’s communications manager. “Both 988 and 211 are answered 24 hours a day, 365 days a year by our highly trained and compassionate staff.”
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Brevard isn’t the only place where Haskins has provided stickers. Students have reached out to her from all around the country, including an Oregonian high-schooler, who asked for 500 stickers for her whole high school, she said.
Do It For Hunter’s work goes beyond just stickers. Suicide awareness benches have been placed at all four campuses of Eastern Florida State College, where Hunter graduated with his associate degree. They helped organize a “You Matter Day for Suicide Awareness” in September, with Merritt Island High School, Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, Audubon Elementary School, Jefferson Middle School and Stevenson Elementary School all participating as well as numerous local businesses and churches.
They’re hoping to involve more students and organizations this year, Haskins said.
“We know that the more we do and the more we’re able to get the 988 number out there … the more lives are going to be saved,” she said.
“And that’s what it’s all about — just saving one life.”
Finch Walker is the education reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Walker at 321-290-4744 or email@example.com. X: @_finchwalker.