Forging a New Career To Prevent Teen Suicide

After she lost her daughter, Jenny Wolpert pledged to help prevent teen suicide.

May 23, 2012
A mom works to prevent teen suicide.Source: Courtesy of Jenny Wolpert

Jenny Wolpert’s favorite family photo reminds her why she’s working to prevent teen suicide.

In October of her sophomore year of high school, Grayson Wolpert took her life. It was tragic and unexpected, her mother Jenny says. Grayson had suffered from OCD, then anxiety and depression, but seemed to have gotten to a better place. “I remember waking up the next morning at my in-laws’ house – we couldn’t stay at our house that night — thinking I am not going to be silent about this,” Wolpert says. She felt a calling deep inside to prevent teen suicide by talking about it.

A month after Grayson’s death, when a girlfriend called to offer support, Wolpert found her way to help. “My friend told me about a website dedicated to helping people suffering from tendencies toward self harm and suicide, called To Write Love on Her Arms. I looked it up and was so impressed with what they were doing and the fact that they were doing it online.” She signed up for a weekend workshop the following spring. “I wasn’t the type to leave my family for something like this, but I felt this desire to go. It was so inspirational. The people there had so much energy and passion for helping other people. It made me want to take that information to others.”

Wolpert began organizing events near her Los Angeles home. She got a staffer from To Write Love on Her Arms to fly in and speak at Grayson’s high school, and at an acoustic concert at a neighboring school. “It opened a huge dialogue for kids in our community.” Wolpert gave a talk about her own experience and discovered speaking about it wasn’t as tough as she’d imagined. “I have so much passion for improving communications. There’s an energy that comes inside me and calms me down. I embrace the fact that I might make a difference in someone else’s life.” In December she appeared on an NBC special when To Write Love On Her Arms won a grant from American Giving Awards.

Last spring, Wolpert went back to school to finish her degree in communications. “It was time to make a commitment to myself and give myself the tools to speak about teen suicide prevention and create workshops. She chose Walden University. “Its mission statement — that education provides the stepping stones to make the world a better place — really resonated for me. I knew this was the right thing,” Wolpert says.

“Right now, I’ve got speaking engagements for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I’ll be done with school next fall. Then, I’ll see how my work unfolds. There’s stigma around the word suicide. It’s a tricky and important subject. I want to give workshops where teens find the voice to speak up if they or a friend is having a hard time.”

Wolpert’s younger daughter Skyler, who starts high school next year is proud of her mother. “She is my biggest cheerleader, and I’m grateful to be a role model,” Wolpert says.