Signs of Suicide 2019

7th Grade Classroom Prevention Lesson

October Lesson: SOS

During the month of October 2019, 7th grade counselors, Ms. Arensberg and Ms. Osei Brantuo teamed up with school social worker, Mrs. Sulyans to present the classroom guidance lesson on Signs of Suicide. While this lesson is a required part of our comprehensive school counseling curriculum, it’s so much more than that. This lesson educates students on the importance of mental health, signs and symptoms of depression, and warning signs of potential suicidal peers.

Our goal in presenting this lesson is to educate, raise awareness, and prevent. An illogical and outdated myth that is often tossed around is that if we talk about a subject, a student is more susceptible to act on the subject. Studies and years of counseling research have shown that this is NOT true. In fact, having discussions does the exact opposite… it helps.

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Getting the Messages Across

One of the biggest messages we incorporate into this lesson is that we want students to break the stigma on mental health. We want them to understand and value their mental health just as they would value their physical health. Furthermore, we teach our students that expressing your concerns to a doctor about your thoughts, feelings, and emotions is just as important as it would be to talk to a doctor about any other ailment.

While raising awareness for mental health is a large responsibility of Rippon Middle School’s Counseling Department, we also place a high value on educating students about the science behind it. A large part of our SOS lesson is dedicated to teaching the difference between depression and sadness or blues that we all experience from time to time. We stress that depression is a mental disorder that has an overpowering effect on SEVERAL parts of a person's life – academically, socially, emotionally. It affects the WHOLE person. It occurs in people of any gender or age and alters behaviors and attitudes. Teaching the signs and symptoms of depression helps our students to be able to recognize it in others and possibly even themselves. Below is one of the videos we used in the lesson to help students understand the difference.

How it feels to have depression - information for kids, teens & young people.
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Acknowledge. Care. Tell.

Throughout the SOS lesson, we encourage students to ACT when they recognize these signs and symptoms in a peer.

ACT stands for: Acknowledge, Care, Tell

Students are taught how to ACKNOWLEDGE that their friend may need help. Not necessarily solve the situation, but to help encourage their friend to talk about the situation without judging them.

They are asked to show CARE for their friend. We ask that they stay positive and listen to their friends. Show that someone cares about their well being. Projecting kindness towards someone that is hurting is a good way for your student to show empathy. Caring for one another is essential as they grow into adulthood.

Finally, and the most important piece of prevention is to get the students to TELL someone. We teach the students to not just tell a stranger or a random adult, but someone who is able to seek the help that the student may need.

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Part of the SOS lesson covers the topic of self-harming. While self-injurious behaviors (i.e., cutting) are not necessarily a warning sign that a person is suicidal, it is still a very serious mental health concern that we want students to be aware of. We teach students that intentional harm to oneself is not a healthy coping mechanism, but rather a poor means of escape. Our goal as school counselors is to teach students healthy and effective ways to process thoughts and feelings. We encourage students to ACT - acknowledge, care, and tell a trusted adult if they are concerned that a friend might be harming themselves.
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How Does Bullying Play a Role?

Many studies have examined the relationship between bullying and suicidality, or the tendency to have suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Statistics show that both bullies and victims of bullying are at a higher risk for experiencing both signs of depression and suicidal thoughts/behaviors. Our goal in teaching this aspect of the SOS lesson is to bring awareness to the effects of bullying, especially cyberbullying. We encourage students to not only treat others with kindness, but also to pay attention to what their peers’ are posting. Unusual social media posts are usually the first, and most common, warning sign.

A Word About Drugs & Alcohol

We also talk to the students about how Drugs and Alcohol may impair and enhance the emotional state, especially when you're going through a lot

•Alcohol is a drug, and sometimes people abuse alcohol to escape their feelings.

•Depression could be caused by drugs, withdrawals from drugs, substance abuse

•Alcohol may make people feel good, but it acts as a downer in the body and heavy drinking can make your mood unstable.

•Alcohol abuse can increase the risk of suicide. Alcohol is involved in half of all suicides, murders, and accidents.

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SOS Statistics at Rippon

Following our classroom lessons on Signs of Suicide, we had 32 follow-ups during the month of October. 3 out of the 32 needed a full screening. In other words, we conducted the full Suicide Risk Screening on 3 students.

Some of the reasons why the students wanted to follow up were:

  • Bullying
  • Past suicidal thoughts
  • Sexual harassment
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Death in the family
  • Family issues/concerns
  • Concerns about another peer
  • Other things going on in their life-not necessarily anything to do w/ Suicidal feelings or SOS
  • Accidentally checking the wrong box and not needing follow up
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Prevention is a Team Approach

While Rippon Middle School continues to work collaboratively to build a safe, nurturing, and supportive environment for our students, we also encourage teachers and parents to extend these conversations in the classroom and at home to come full circle. Our students can and will make a difference in the world - our jobs as staff members, community members, and parents is to teach them to tools to not only survive in it, but thrive in it.

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