Madison County parents and staff met Tuesday night at Canaan Middle School in Plain City to learn about the Signs of Suicide (SOS) program from Nationwide Children’s Hospital. SOS is a nationally recognized program from the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Children’s that teaches students how to detect warning signs of depression and suicide in themselves or fellow classmates.
It was developed by Screening for Mental Health, an organization out of Boston who began implementing it in the 1990s.
Melanie Luken, a Suicide Prevention Specialist with Children’s Hospital’s Behavioral Health Center, gave an informational presentation on the program and some of the ways parents and caregivers can begin to address any behavioral health issues in their child’s life.
“Our main role is really to support schools and implementing SOS,” Luken said. “So, doing trainings with school staff and with caregivers in the community, other agencies in the community that serve youth to really get out all this information.”
SOS is a two-day training program which teaches students about depression and what to look for in students who may be showing signs of it. It also teaches them to understand how to address the issues for themselves or with regard to students who may be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts.
Luken said the information is crucial to get to students since, according to the Center for Disease Control, one in five kids over the age of 11 has mental health issues and of that number, only 50 percent of kids who are diagnosed actually get treatment.
“Most people who do experience suicidal thoughts or behaviors experience a couple of things,” she said, referring to the varying nature of causes and outward behavior. “But also, most people don’t really want death. They really want the pain that they’re experiencing to end and they just haven’t found another solution.” She said the idea of something like SOS is to raise awareness so that people around a depressed or suicidal person can detect the issue before it’s taken too far. She added, “Youth suicide is largely preventable.”
With this being the case, behavioral health professionals want to pass along information and skills to equip the greater public on how to implement prevention techniques. Luken said one of the best reasons to implement SOS in education is that they can catch most kids while in school.
“Signs of Suicide is evidence based,” she said. “Schools that are using it over time consistently, have seen reductions in suicide attempts from 40 to 60 percent, depending on the school.” The statistics on the program’s effectiveness are based on studies done by Screening for Mental Health.
School counselors plan to implement the SOS program in all four Madison County Schools. Currently, the Jonathan Alder School District plans to bring the program to Canaan, starting with the sixth grade class during the last week of October. After that, Alder plans to have the eighth and 10th grade also go through the program in November and December.
Melissa Canney, the Student Support Specialist with London City Schools, Cindy Wolfe, a student counselor with Jonathan Alder, JoLynn Wheatley, the District Social Worker at Alder and Gary Chapman, Alder’s superintendent were among the county staff members at the meeting. Luken and the staff members stayed after the presentation to talk with parents and answer any questions they may have had.
“This is a really important topic and we want to be able to spread the information to people in our community,” Wheatley said.
Reach Michael Williamson at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619.