(Posted Oct. 20, 2016)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
One in six high school students has seriously contemplated suicide.
One in 13 high school students has attempted suicide.
Ohio’s youth suicide rate is higher than the national average.
These are sobering statistics. Locally, London City Schools is addressing the issue of student mental health and suicide prevention through a partnership with Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
The hospital’s Center for Suicide Prevention is bringing its Signs of Suicide (SOS) program to the staff and students in grades 6-12 at London Middle School and London High School.
“We at London have not, to my knowledge, had a program to address suicide prevention. What a better partner than Nationwide Children’s Hospital,” said Melissa Canney, London City Schools student support specialist.
SOS is a free, school-based program. The two major components are a curriculum that aims to raise awareness of suicide and its related issues and a brief screening of students for depression and other risk factors associated with suicidal behavior.
Implementation at London began with a program overview for school staff on Oct. 18. On Nov. 3, Nationwide experts will train interested teachers on how to teach the SOS curriculum in the classroom. That same day, Canney, school counselors, building administrators and community volunteers will receive training on how to conduct screenings.
The district will roll out the program to students starting in mid-November. High schoolers will receive instruction over two days in their English classes. Middle schoolers will receive instruction over two days in their social studies classes. Nationwide clinicians will be on site to guide the process, answer questions, and help with screenings and risk assessments.
The program also includes a segment for the public, “Safeguarding Our Youth,” set for 7 p.m. Nov. 3 in the high school auditorium. Participants will learn about symptoms of mental health, warning signs of suicide, and appropriate responses. Organizers will have a list of area resources. The program is scheduled to last about an hour and is free.
“It is open to anyone and, while the program is geared to adolescents, it’s really important for adults to receive the information, too,” Canney said. “We have to get people more comfortable with talking about mental health, about anxiety and depression.”
The key message of SOS is ACT:
- Acknowledge that you are seeing signs of depression or suicide in a friend and that it is serious.
- Care—Let your friend know that you care about them and that you are concerned that he or she needs help you cannot provide.
- Tell a trusted adult that you are worried about your friend.
The documented program outcomes of SOS are:
- A 40 percent decrease in student suicide attempts.
- A reduction in negative attitudes and stigma associated with mental health.
- Increased willingness of students to seek help for themselves or friends.
For more information about the Signs of Suicide Program, contact Melissa Canney at (740) 852-5700, ext. 2109.