Presenter shares mental health journey at Evart High

Shandy Longcore: ‘We have our own epidemic in terms of mental health of our teens; we're in a crisis.'

EVART — Educating young people on the importance of prioritizing mental health is important to many school districts, and Evart Public Schools recently invited a speaker with a powerful story on her personal experience with the often overlooked topic. 

Shandy Longcore is the founder of Embracing Imperfections, an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of suicide prevention and mental health. 

Longcore recently spoke to a group of students at Evart High School sponsored by Spectrum Health and shared her story on survival and resilience. 

Originally from Kalkaska, in the northern Lower Peninsula, she has traveled throughout the state sharing her story and working to inspire others to prioritize their own mental health. 

Longcore’s story of surviving a suicide attempt at 10 years old is one that she utilizes to engage audiences and find connections with students she speaks to. 

“I actually grew up in a small town similar to Evart, in Kalkaska, Michigan,” Longcore said. “In a small town, it's easy to want to keep some things a secret, and so that's what we did after my suicide attempt at 10. I was called out on that fact, about five years ago, and have been sharing my attempt story and hopes to ultimately prevent suicide in others, and really to take a notch out of the stigma wall that surrounds mental health. I've been public speaking since then and really enjoy the assembly format.”

A graduate of Kalkaska High School and Aquinas College, Longcore starred in track and basketball at both schools. She worked as director of a premier health club facility in West Michigan before making the decision to pursue a career in public speaking. 

Longcore said her goal is to engage students in a topic that many people struggle to discuss. 

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people," she said. "And while that fact, is something that should scare us, right, especially coming out of the pandemic, we have our own epidemic in terms of mental health of our teens; we're in a crisis. Speaking about mental health is important because not only talking about it as a good thing, in general, to make it normalized, that you could have some struggles and that talking through those is important versus dealing with on your own."

“Many times, people who are considering taking their lives tell someone, and what we do with that is important,” Longcore added. “Having the right tools at their discretion is critical, meaning things like the 1-800-273-TALK hotline, or you can text 741741 to reach a licensed counselor on the other end.” 

Longcore focuses her talks with students on aspects of how one can address feelings of suicide, and how to access the right help. 

She said finding ways to relate to students helps get her message across, and that Evart students were receptive.

“I think it went well because the students can relate,” Longcore said. “This is true to every school, it's not just Evart. When I was in school, we would talk about drug prevention, alcohol abuse, and those types of topics. We've actually come as a society quite a long ways with those statistics, and they've greatly improved. Now, if we're meeting the needs of our teens, we're absolutely going to be talking about mental health strategies and what to do when you feel like you're struggling. To know that you're not on an island and that there is help.

“I first share with them the story of my childhood and what all happened,” she added. “Then I really spend a good chunk of time on for insights, which is the idea of talking and that it's no longer taboo to meet with a counselor. I have them brainstorm what sets them up for success in terms of mental health on a general everyday basis like what they do for themselves. Then we talk about the idea of getting through the millisecond, and what I mean by that is that split second or a millisecond when you might have a feeling where you don't want to be here. I actually use visualization techniques, how do you get through the yuck, how do you get through that feeling of I might not want to be here?” 


Longcore’s presentation includes a deep discussion on strategies for addressing mental health like talking with a professional, how to find a quality therapist to fit specific needs, and why breaking stigmas is key. 

She said what saved her life at a young age after her attempt was learning how to be comfortable sharing her thoughts. 

“My advice is to no longer make meeting with a counselor taboo as they may have perceived it to be,” Longcore said. “The school has great resources in terms of social workers, and counselors in school. Then they have this beautiful new opportunity with Spectrum Health to meet with a licensed counselor as well. My advice is to work with a professional listener, a counselor, or a therapist, to talk through what is going on, and to put aside what are a lot of times prejudices against working with one of them."

“Another big one for schools now today is a peer listening group,” she added. “I'm in communication with principal Jessica Kolenda about a potential of that at Evart. I don't do them personally, but that's kind of a neat thing. Schools are starting peer listening groups to aid in taking a step forward and reducing that stigma and being available, having available listening ears.” 

Longcore’s nonprofit Embracing Imperfection has a board that works to seek additional opportunities and places where she can share her story, as well as cultivate and spread information on aspects of suicide prevention. 

Moving forward, Longcore said she hopes to continue to see more schools including speakers like her in educational curriculum for students and find new ways to address mental health in schools. 

“It's my goal to speak to every school possible and really anyone that will listen,” Longcore said. “I almost lost my life in a quick rash decision before taking what I now know is great advice in terms of talking and visualizing, getting through the millisecond, and utilizing the daily mental health strategies that helped me. I want to continue being a bucket filler to other people. My goal would be to talk to every student possible, talk to everyone so that we can lower that stigma wall."

“The Evart community should be really proud of their school for addressing mental health,” she said. “Adding in a focus on suicide prevention, not only for hosting and assembly, focused on those two topics, but for their partnership with Spectrum Health, as well. Having an addition to their school staff as a supportive arm for their services is quintessential and speaks volumes to the school meeting the needs of their students."

“I was absolutely thoroughly impressed with Mrs. Kolenda, her staff, and the students,” she added. “I was well respected, I was well-received. The students were great listeners, you can tell that they respect the leadership there. They've got a really good thing going on. Those students feel love. It’s a great thing because they need it now more than ever, and I can tell that the Evart staff is doing exactly that.” 

For more information on Embracing Imperfection and Longcore’s mission, visit the nonprofit’s website at