- As part of its efforts to focus on students’ social-emotional development and mental health, the Edmonds School District (WA) is working to raise awareness about depression and suicide.
- Two years ago, the district began implementing “Signs of Suicide,” a prevention program that teaches students when to tell an adult that they are concerned about one of their friends. The program has already led to intervention that kept a student from following through with a plan to kill herself, and the district also plans to implement a social-emotional learning program in K-3 next year.
- One student says that because teens tend to joke about killing themselves, it can be hard to know when to take action, but she added that when she sees those comments on social media, she no longer takes it lightly.
Suicide prevention should not be left out of schools’ efforts to address students’ social-emotional health and development. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among 15- to 19-year-olds declined between 1990 and 2007, but has been rising since 2007, from 10.8 per 100,000 to 14.2, an increase of 31%
While schools might not think they have professionals with the expertise to recognize the signs that a student might be in trouble and respond to those signs, schools are increasingly working with community-based mental health agencies to provide professional development and to refer students for treatment.
A recent report from the American Institutes for Research noted the benefits of continuously evaluating and assessing school mental health programs and partnerships to ensure that they are addressing the right issues. The document discusses surveys that can easily be administered among students to inform school leaders. A survey among middle and high school students in Washoe County (NV), for example, showed that 63% of students needed further assessment and services at school or in the community for issues such as depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. The report also suggests ways for identifying resources available in the community and reviews federal legislation and funding streams that can be used to support these services.