Tasha Schuh nearly gave up on life in as a teenager.
An accident while practicing for a high school musical rendered her then as a paraplegic. When a trap door of the stage quickly opened with little warning, Schuh fell 16 feet onto to a cement floor and broke her neck.
In the hospital afterwards, she lapsed into a coma for eight days, and when she awoke, she learned doctors had thought she may not live.
During the Jan. 14 Waunakee Rotary Club meeting, Schuh told the club she then realized her life had a purpose.
Still, when she returned home from the hospital, she struggled with depression and suicide ideation. She then began a journey overcoming this through resilience.
Today, she loves her life and she has learned the importance of mental health. She began sharing her story with others as a national speaker and received the National Rehabilitation Champion Award and a Hometown Hero award.
More than 23 years since the accident, Tasha remains in a wheelchair, but she has earned two bachelor’s degrees, written books and developed a mental health curriculum for middle and high schools.
Schuh and her husband, Doug, are passionate about mental health and suicide prevention and have been since her best friend from high school lost her son to suicide.
“I’m still so devastated by this,” Schuh said. She said she remembered feeling like this young man, but she had persevered. And she knew her friend’s son would never have the opportunity to achieve what she had.
The two Wisconsin residents wanted to be part of the solution. They began talking to high school students, and from the messages she received after those talks, she saw students were struggling with depression and suicide ideation.
Sharing statistics, Schuh said suicide was one of the leading causes of death in 2018, when 1.4 million Americans attempted to end their lives and 44,344 died. From 1999-2016, suicide rates increased by more than 30% in 25 states, according the Centers for Disease Control.
The curriculum Schuh, her husband, and countless contributors developed is called PATH: Building Resilience for Mental Health and Suicide Awareness. PATH is an acronym is for Purpose, Attitude, Team and Hope.
Sharing those attributes with students is impossible in one 45¬-minute talk or assembly, so the PATH curriculum goes deeper, giving young people the tools to be successful, Schuh said.
No other curriculum builds on resilience, she added. PATH is also certified by the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education and is recommended by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Schuh said resilience should be taught as part the middle and high school curriculum, and PATH offers both videos and handouts for teachers. She called it easy to use, designed like a “paint by numbers.”
“Any teacher can be teaching it; it doesn’t need to be a school counselor,” she said, adding the prep time takes 15 minutes or less.
Teachers can also use the curriculum’s strategies and activities to get students reflecting and absorbing the material. The curriculum is offered at a reduced cost, making it accessible to most districts, and includes no annual renewal fee.
For information about PATH, visit https://path_curriculum.teachable.com.