Prevention through Education
The Signs of Suicide (SOS) program serves middle and high schools across the country. The program has shown a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40-64% in randomized control studies (Schilling et al., 2015).
Through a video and guided discussion, students learn to identify warning signs of suicide and depression in a single class period. At the end of the session, students are encouraged to take a seven-question screening for depression (anonymous or signed – the school can decide), which enables the school to identify students who are at risk. The curriculum raises awareness about behavioral health and encourages students to ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) when worried about themselves or their peers.
Suicide: A Growing Concern
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 youth aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental health disorder at some point during their lifetime. When ignored, these disorders can lead to life-threatening consequences. Depression is the leading cause of suicide, which is also the second leading cause of death for 11- to 17-year-olds. Youth Risk Behavior Survey data from 2017 indicates that 17% of youth considered suicide over the past year while 14% made a plan. Although the statistics are troubling, suicide is preventable.
Schools and communities can work together to decrease stigma around mental health and provide support to youth who may be struggling.
Empowering the School Community
Research has shown that youth are most likely to talk to a friend if they are depressed or considering suicide. They are also more likely to tell a trusted teacher, guidance counselor, coach, or professor if they are experiencing a behavioral health crisis or are thinking about suicide. It’s important for schools to equip students and school personnel with the tools and knowledge so that they have the ability to help a student in crisis.