Grain Valley, Missouri
Learning to recognize signs of depression and suicide was the focus of discussion this fall for sixth grade and ninth grade students in the Grain Valley School District. New students in grades 6-12 this fall also received training, preparing nearly all 2262 students in grades 6-12 to recognize that suicide is not a normal response to stress, but rather is a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression.
The SOS Signs of Suicide® Prevention Program is a national program that teaches students how to recognize symptoms of depression and suicide in themselves or friends that indicate a need for further evaluation. Students view videos about the signs of suicide and the steps to take if they, a friend, or loved one is at risk.
Students learn to ACT:
A – Acknowledge: Admit that you are seeing signs of depression or suicide in a friend and that it is serious.
C – Care: Let your friend know that you care about him or her, and that you are concerned that he or she needs help you cannot provide.
T – Tell: Inform a trusted adult, either with your friend or on his or her behalf. Never promise to keep the secret!
High school seniors received instruction on a revised ACT this year that called on these young adults to seek treatment beyond high school: T – Treatment.
The Grain Valley School District is committed to helping our students navigate the challenges of the teen years, while helping to develop coping skills that serve them as adults as well.
Administering the SOS program is a collaborative effort with district counselors and regional mental health professionals to the meet the mental health needs of Grain Valley students. For this year’s program at the high school, 14 mental health professionals from inside and outside our school district were on hand to directly assist high school students.
This is the sixth year for the SOS Signs of Suicide® High School Prevention Program at Grain Valley High School. In that time, trained staff have followed up on dozens of students who have made self-referrals because they were concerned for themselves. Still others have referred a peer out of concern. When these referrals are for students not attending our high school, staff still follow up to ensure those children’s needs are being addressed no matter where they live.
Referrals in the high school program were down overall this year compared with previous years. Grain Valley High School Counselor Corey Vuagniaux attributes this measure, and the overall comfortable reaction of the students to the program, as an indication that increased awareness in middle school is getting students the right support at the right time. “This school district is doing a better job of identifying struggling students earlier for a variety of reasons. We also believe this is a direct result of implementing the middle school version of the SOS program at both middle schools last year.”
Parents are notified immediately if a concern is raised by or about their child. The schools offer parent orientations to preview the videos and learn more about the program. Parents are offered the opportunity to have their child opt out of the program ahead of time, and a few elect to do so each year.
HB 1583 was signed into law in June, 2016, requiring Missouri school districts to adopt policy on youth suicide awareness and calling for annual training on suicide prevention.