Fellow Spotlight: A School Nurse Tackles Youth Suicide

Fellow Spotlight: A School Nurse Tackles Youth Suicide
July 8, 2019 3:37 pm


Kelly McGrady, a school nurse and member of Clinical Scholars’ 2017 cohort, demonstrates the importance of building trust in communities to successfully connect people with the resources they need to thrive. The story is featured on RWJF’s Campaign for Nursing blog. Below is an excerpt; click here to read the full story.


Clinical Scholars Fellow and School Nurse Tackles Youth Suicide in Her Community

Kelly McGrady, a school nurse and fellow in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s (RWJF) Clinical Scholars program, understood the hopelessness felt by the twenty youths who attempted suicide in her first month as a mentor for the New Town, North Dakota, school district. She, too, attempted suicide when she was just 8 and 15.

McGrady is an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara) and a trusted leader in her community. She grew up on the same reservation as many of her students, surviving many of the same adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Unfortunately, the story McGrady and her students share is not uncommon. Forty percent of people who die by suicide in American Indian communities are between the ages of 15 and 24. Among adults ages 18 to 24, American Indians have higher suicide rates than any other ethnicity in the United States.

Determined to stop the high number of suicide attempts, McGrady teamed up with pediatrician Anita Martin, psychiatrist Monica Taylor-Desir, and social worker Leolani Ah Quin. With the support of RWJF’s Clinical Scholars program, they initiated a Building Resilience, Building Health program to support youth who are at risk for suicide or who have survived a suicide attempt.

As a trusted community member, McGrady is able to amplify the impact of the program by connecting community members to the help they need, and has built a reputation as the person teens can turn to when they are in crisis.

“I will always answer a text or a call on the weekends, and I get youth help,” she says. “Many of them call me Auntie Kelly because I am genuine in how I care for people, plus I make myself available.”