Free Suicide Prevention Program For Schools

Attorney General Martha Coakley's office is making the program available to schools through a grant.

You’ve heard it on the news. In fact, it seems like it’s almost a daily occurrence now. Headline: Teen Commits Suicide. Whether its due to bullying, cyberbullying, or other problems, the numbers are staggering. Nine teenagers committed suicide (that we know of) just this past year over cyberbullying.

We all know kids can be cruel. We all had childhoods. But imagine your childhood with smartphones. And Facebook. And when it comes to the world wide web, how do you know that it’s even a kid on the other end of your hateful conversation? Do you know who the real bullies are most of the time on the Internet? Adults. Have you ever checked out the comments section of any story? Seriously, any story. It’s a bunch of adults ages 20 to 90 spewing hate and garbage at each other. Newsflash people: There is a real live human at the other end of that hateful comment. People who spend their time hating on the web are the worst kind of people because they think that they can hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.

And it looks like Attorney General Martha Coakley has had enough. Her office is partnering with SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention, a program from Screening for Mental Health, Inc. and bringing it to schools across the state. The first 50 schools that sign up will receive the program free.

“So many kids and families are forced to deal with the devastating impact of depression,” said AG Coakley in a press release. “We want them to know that they do not have to deal with it alone. This important program will help increase awareness and provide the entire school community with the skills to help students who are at risk for suicide.”

According to the press release, students who complete the SOS Program learn to recognize the warning signs of depression and suicide in themselves and in their peers. They are taught to respond effectively to those in need by using the ACT technique: Acknowledge, Care, and Tell. The SOS Program also includes training tools including an interactive course providing prevention education and guidance on implementation of the program for school nurses, social workers, counselors, and psychologists. There is also training for parents, community members, and school staff members. According to a study by BioMed Central Public Health, the program showed a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40 percent.

“We know that identifying at risk students as early as possible is the most effective way to prevent suicide,” said Dr. Douglas Jacobs, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the founder of Screening for Mental Health, Inc. in the release. “We are pleased that AG Coakley supports the SOS Program and look forward to reaching as many students in Massachusetts as possible.”

According to the release:

The SOS Program is made available to Massachusetts middle and high schools through AG Coakley’s Access to Mental Health Services Grant Program that aims to expand access to mental health care, treatment for trauma-related mental health conditions, and suicide prevention programs. The grant money resulted from a June 2012 settlement with an insurance company that agreed to pay $1.7 million to settle allegations that it marketed its health insurance through a variety of improper tactics to more than 1,000 Massachusetts veterans. The settlement included direct payments to veterans and more than $500,000 in grants for organizations to provide mental health services. A supplemental settlement later grew the total amount to $5.25 million.

For more information visit the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. To register your school as a participating site in this grant project, visit the SOS Program registration page.