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Schools, teachers, parents, legislators, researchers, and members of the larger community often view academics as definitive of student success, however, a child’s mental health is a topic that isn’t often discussed which can have a critical impact on their academic success and personal well-being. A recent study has found our SOS Signs of Suicide program for middle school students to be a promising way to teach adolescents about depression and suicide and encourage them to get help.

Adolescence is filled with psychological, biological, and social changes, which can make middle school a very difficult time for youth. Oftentimes students who are struggling with depression and other mental health issues go undiagnosed. In fact, suicide rates increase dramatically during this time. Some students feel very alone in their struggle and lack any knowledge on how to get help.

The SOS program provides schools with the tools needed to educate a large number of students. The program includes a screening for depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as a DVD, which portrays fictional characters struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts, and other psychological issues. In addition, faculty, such as teachers or counselors who implement the program are given detailed instructions and support throughout the process. Researchers found that students at schools that implemented the SOS program self-reported less suicidal behaviors.

How can you become involved with youth suicide prevention?

  • Contact your local school to see what type of suicide prevention programming they offer and if they’ve heard of the SOS program.
  • Reach out to an adolescent/teenager that you know. Even if you don’t believe that he or she is struggling with a mental health issues, middle and high school can still be a tiring time, and a trusted adult can provide a lot of support.
  • Help fight the stigma. Talk with your neighbors and family about the importance of mental health programming and suicide prevention for adolescents.
  • Take a Screening: Do you have a child who you feel may be struggling with depression? Click here to take a short, anonymous adolescent depression screening:


Schilling, E.A, Lawless, M., Buchanan, L, & Aseltine, R.H. (2014). “Signs of suicide” shows promise as a middle school prevention program. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 44(6), 653-667.

Photo Credit: Katie Hickey