PULASKI, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — The pandemic has changed the way school districts look at mental health and suicide prevention. On Friday, Oct. 27, staff at the Pulaski School District received specialized training to make sure they have the tools to start tough conversations and spot any warning signs.

They are taking mental health and suicide prevention to the next level.

“We have conversations all the time here on how to be building relationships with kids and the importance of that and different strategies that we can be using to do those things,” said Jordan Fahnestock, Pulaski Middle-High School principal.

Rolling out a first-of-its-kind training to school staff is something the district couldn’t have done without alumnus Vinny Lobdell and his family, originally from Pulaski, N.Y.

“Pulaski was so near and dear to our hearts. We want to make the impact here first,” said Vinny Lobdell.

The Lobdell family is driven by something deeper than a loyalty to their hometown.

“27 years ago, my brother took his own life by suicide, and back then mental health wasn’t really understood, a tremendous stigma around mental health. My family at the time didn’t have the resources. There weren’t the resources. People didn’t know where to go and get the resources,” Lobdell said. “And so over time, as our family grew and we became more, we had the ability to give more back, not just our time but financial. We knew that it was something not to only honor my brother and memorialize my brother, but to make sure that other families didn’t have to go through what our family went through. If we can save one life, it’s worth the investment we made.”

The Lobdell family made a generous donation of $1 million to Oswego Health in honor of their son and brother, Rusty Lobdell. This donation allowed Oswego Health to partner with the Lobdell family, providing special training to the entire Pulaski School District, bringing in world-renowned mental health expert Dr. Dan Reidenberg, Psy.D, a clinical psychologist and international expert in suicide and suicide prevention.

“We’re going to be talking about what is mental health. How to identify it. How to talk to somebody who is struggling with mental health issues. And then what do you do if somebody is at risk of suicide, and how to help them,” said Dr. Reidenberg.

“Teachers have a lot of tools to work with to help our students. I think this just adds even more tools,” said Fahnestock.

They are leading the way in mental health support and reminding students they aren’t alone.

The Lobdell family plans on rolling out mental health and suicide prevention training to other schools in Central New York.