New program expands PWCS focus on suicide prevention education and other mental health concerns
Posted on 09/25/2018
Picture of teachers sitting at table in training session on suicide preventionYouth suicide is a difficult topic. But it’s one that PWCS is committed to focus on, discuss, and ultimately prevent. The Office of Student Services is expanding that focus by adding two potentially life-saving programs to those currently in place for educators, staff, and students, on serious mental health topics.

“We have begun hosting suicide prevention training events with our new community partner, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP),” said Richmond Hill, supervisor of student assistance and prevention programs. “AFSP is facilitating ‘train the trainer’ workshops to prepare not only our school counselors, but other mental health professionals and school personnel to present the ‘More than Sad,’ and ‘It’s Real,’ national prevention courses meant to help school personnel and eventually students better recognize and understand suicidal behavior.

PWCS is building a team of facilitators certified to deliver the training to staff in schools throughout the School Division, with the goal of providing instruction at all middle and high schools for students in grades eight and higher.

• “More than Sad” is a broad teen depression and suicide prevention education program that uses videos, guides, and other materials geared for eighth graders to adult.

• “It’s Real: College Students and Mental Health” reveals depression and other mental health conditions as they are commonly experienced by young adults. This program is intended to prepare 12th-grade students to recognize and manage potential uncertainties or concerns that may manifest as graduation nears.

“More than Sad” and “It’s Real” build on our existing services, helping all of us understand depression and suicidal behavior so that we can support students and give them the resources they need to fulfill their potential,” said Carolyn Custard, director of PWCS Office of Student Services. “When students feel a personal connection to individuals in their school and community, it can be just the support they need to speak up in times of distress. This connectedness is one of the 40 Developmental Assets® we work to promote as essential for young people to thrive.”

The new courses join these existing programs to help staff and students stay informed about current research and guidance on mental health concerns:

• “Kognito At-Risk for Educators” is a one-hour interactive training offered as an online program for teachers and other school staff through a partnership with Northern Virginia Community Services Boards and the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Services.

• “Signs of Suicide” is provided to students in grades 7-9 as a guidance unit by school counselors or other Student Services professionals to help youth identify the signs and symptoms of depression, suicide, and self-injury in themselves and their peers using videos and role play. The program encompasses an advance letter home to parents and a follow up survey that alerts adults to any concerns for the student. Some schools also implement an SOS component for parents.

• “Suicide Prevention” is a video training offered to help new certified personnel become familiar with the behavioral signs of suicide and what to do if they have a concern for a student.

• “Teen Depression: Recognize the Signs and Get Help” is a workshop that teaches adults how to recognize depression in teenagers and how to intervene.

• “Youth Mental Health First Aid” workshops are eight-hour courses offered throughout the year to introduce participants to the unique risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems in adolescents and ways to help.

“Making suicide prevention education a priority is important and making it a priority is a promise we will keep,” said Hill, himself an AFSP certified trainer. “We want people to know we are talking about these issues, and we are committed to working together toward solutions.” 

PWCS employees interested in getting additional information or registering for a training should view this PWCS Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Staff Training Opportunities information on the intranet.

Giving PWCS employees the resources to support the whole child promotes academic success for our students and that makes it Positively PWCS.