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Barzanna White Ph.D., has been working with the SOS Program for the last year and a half in Louisiana. In this spotlight, where we celebrate her success, White shared with us in her own words what her experience has been like and what advice she would give to new certified trainers.

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started with SOS?

Over the course of the last 28 years, I have worked as a School Psychologist in Tennessee and Louisiana, taught as adjunct faculty at The University of Tennessee, Pellissippi, Tusculum College, Centenary College of Louisiana, and Louisiana State University in Shreveport. I currently serve as the District School Psychologist and the School Climate Transformation Grant Director. Besides conducting threat assessments and serving over 300 students yearly, my passion is prevention!

During the last several years, I have advocated and trained thousands of district, regional, and state staff in many preventative initiatives. Each year that I am fortunate enough to attend and present at national events, I am energized and thankful when I see how prevention saves lives — especially related to bullying prevention, social-emotional learning, school climate, trauma-informed care, adverse childhood experiences, mental health, and, of course, suicide prevention.

Approximately one and a half years ago, the Louisiana State Department of Education helped to support various initiatives related to suicide prevention. And I was fortunate to be selected to attend the phenomenal “Signs of Suicide” training.

What kind of impact have you seen with the SOS Training Program? 

Out of necessity after Hurricane Katrina, northwest Louisiana formed the Northwest Louisiana Suicide Prevention Coalition which was comprised of dedicated individuals who all saw a great need in our area. Out of that initial push developed a yearly conference, partnerships with area schools, and a dedicated local hotline manned 24/7. After training 180 school-based counselors, school psychologists, social workers, and behavior interventionists at the start of this school year, Caddo Parish School Board approved the implementation of this program for high schools.

What’s your proudest training accomplishment?

Each time I present the SOS materials to a new group of parents, community members, students, and staff, I am reminded that you never know how much you impact the lives of others. Whether you have helped someone be able to come forward and share their concerns, talk about their loss or be willing to seek professional help, it’s a very humbling experience to know that you are a part of that moment.

Can you describe how you’ve used the SOS Training Program to help get SOS Programs to kids in schools?

Although overview training started in July, more detailed training with counselors who will implement the SOS program will occur in late October. Afterwards, our district will begin training students in November. Based on the pilot group of students trained so far, recognition of signs and the openness to share concerns has definitely saved lives.

Can you share a moment, while either implementing the SOS Program or facilitating a training, that was particularly meaningful to you? 

During a presentation to parents, one parent stood up and said, “Everyone needs to hear this message. We need to have this talk with our kids. One life lost is too many!”

What advice would you give to some of our newly certified SOS trainers?

Because of the time of the year I was trained, I was really concerned about having adequate time to implement SOS and do a good job. Initially, I was concerned about how I would market this to schools and how I was going to add one more thing to an already full plate. But, I took the materials to a conference and while I was in my hotel room, began to review the SOS program and DVDs. I laid out a timeline and started slowly. I also was reminded that all good things take time and that what we are passionate about we find a way to do. So, I built on that passion and as they say, “The journey started with one small step.”