Recently, I attended a conference, the School Administrator's Role in Youth Suicide Prevention. One of the speakers, Dr. Scott Poland, Co-Director Suicide and Violence Prevention Office at Nova Southeastern University, provided staggering data about teen suicides, school shooters, and bullying. Dr. Poland spoke about best practices for schools, including implementing the SOS Signs of Suicide program. SOS is the only universal school-based suicide prevention program for which a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts has been documented. In a randomized controlled study, the SOS Program showed a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40%.
On November 18th and 19th, the Guidance Counselors presented the SOS Program to all of our freshman during their Wellness classes. The goals in participating in this program are straightforward:
- To help our students understand that depression is a treatable illness, and help them assess whether or not they may have symptoms consistent with depression.
- To explain that suicide is a preventable tragedy that can occur as a result of untreated depression.
- To provide students training in how to identify serious depression and potential suicidality in a friend.
- To impress upon our students that they can help themselves or a friend by taking a simple step of talking to a responsible adult about their concerns.
In addition to the SOS Program curriculum, the Guidance Counselors showed the students a short video created by Mayo Clinic. In this video, teens describe common signs that a teen is considering suicide and provide encouragement for communicating directly and immediately for support and safety. It also includes suggestions for what to say to a teen who may be at risk for suicide and ways to keep them safe.
"Suicide Prevention is Everyone's Responsibility." - Dr. Poland