When a neighboring community experienced multiple youth suicide deaths, Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, responded to rising suicide rates locally and around the country by creating the Center for Suicide Prevention & Research (CSPR).
The team was charged with increasing the reach of suicide prevention across central and southeast Ohio, with the initial goal of bringing programming to 20 schools and 5 counties per year.
Some schools were initially hesitant to bring suicide prevention education to students. Concerns included a lack of resources to respond to those struggling with suicidal thoughts or mental health and substance misuse issues – as well as the fear that talking about suicide might put the idea into students’ minds.
School administrators also worried parents would be alarmed if questions about behavioral health and suicide were asked directly. Additionally, schools were unsure if their faculty and staff had the expertise to deliver SOS safely and effectively.
“We identified the SOS Signs of Suicide program as having the best evidence base behind it,” said Dr. John Ackerman who leads the CSPR’s prevention efforts.
SOS provided a clear message, dedicated resources, and the ability to bring attention to supporting youth identified by screening – all of which enabled the CSPR to focus on implementing the program in as many schools as possible.
SOS Signs of Suicide
With SOS, the CSPR is able to offer teachers, school counselors, and administrators tools to talk about suicide, assess risk, and increase the safety of their students.
SOS resources like newly updated videos for middle and high school students, planning and facilitator guides, lesson plans, and educational materials for students, faculty, and parents empowered schools to effectively implement the program.
The new SOS videos “feel authentic – people are sharing stories in a way that doesn’t put others at risk and represent a lot of diversity” according to Ackerman.
“In every school, there are stars that rise up. And we have yet to work with a school that didn’t have several talented and compassionate people that can run this program.”
Elizabeth Cannon, CSPR’s Clinical Lead Supervisor
How they Expanded the Reach of SOS
The CSPR’s Clinical Lead Supervisor, Elizabeth Cannon, says “I often hear from school faculty that offering SOS student training is a privilege and the role they are most proud of fulfilling each school year. Their experiences reflect the caliber of the SOS program.”
Overall, Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s partnership with SOS has resulted in the following outcomes:
43,227students have received SOS training.
18%of students who received SOS were connected to treatment services.
142schools received SOS, with 85 schools training in 2019.
18counties implemented SOS (20% of Ohio)
6399students identified as at-risk via BSAD and connected to treatment through SOS.
37%of students who were identified as at-risk received crisis or outpatient referrals, while the rest were connected to school services.