The teen years are often marked by a roller-coaster ride of emotions – difficult for teens, their parents, and educators. One of the most significant challenges is identifying and addressing depression as it is easy to misread as normal adolescent turmoil. However, depression (among the most common of mental illnesses) appears to be occurring at a much earlier age, and the past decade has seen teen suicide rates double.
In order to proactively address this issue, ConVal offers suicide prevention training and depression screening as part of the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention program. This program has been used by thousands of schools over the past decade. It has proven successful at increasing help seeking by students concerned about themselves or a friend, and is the only school-based suicide prevention selected by SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) for its National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices that addresses suicide risk and depression, while reducing suicide attempts.
Our goals in participating in this program are:
- To help our students understand that depression is a treatable illness and to help them assess whether or not they may have symptoms consistent with depression
- To explain that suicide is a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression
- To provide students training in how to identify serious depression and potential suicidality in a friend
- To impress upon teens that they can help themselves or a friend by taking the simple step of talking to a responsible adult about their concerns.
SOS: Signs of Suicide Program
The SOS Program will be delivered by the Student Support Team members, which include school counselors, student assistance counselors, and the school nurse. The program will be delivered to your student enrolled in Health and Wellness 1 sometime throughout the school year. The SOS Program includes a video, class discussion, and Brief Depression Screening Tool. This tool cannot provide a diagnosis of depression, but does give an indication of whether a young person should be referred for evaluation by a mental health professional. Students who score at risk on the screening tool will be confidentially assessed by a school counseling member.
The SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program is the only youth suicide prevention program that has demonstrated an improvement in students’ knowledge and adaptive attitudes about suicide risk and depression, as well as a reduction in actual suicide attempts. Listed on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices, the SOS Program has shown a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40-64% in randomized control studies (Aseltine et al., 2007 & Schilling et al., 2016).
The SOS Programs use a simple and easy-to-remember acronym, ACT® (Acknowledge, Care, Tell), to teach students action steps to take if they encounter a situation that requires help from a trusted adult. SOS is offered for both middle and high school aged youth and can be implemented in one class period by existing faculty and staff.
In 2016, SST offered the Second ACT Program to all students enrolled in Health and Wellness 2. The Second ACT Program follows up on the skills learned in SOS, and provides students with the resources necessary to find supports once they leave high school.
High school seniors are getting ready to go out into the world on their own, with complete responsibility for their well-being and often times preparing to live on their own for the first time — whether they are ready or not. Life experience, knowledge, and maturity levels can vary greatly among high school students, and mental health and suicide prevention programming for upperclassmen can be very different than that of younger students. To address the unique needs of upperclassmen, Screening for Mental Health created SOS Second ACT: Preparing for Life Beyond High School, to meet the specific mental wellness needs of teenagers preparing for life after high school.
The program was designed to help build a solid foundation on health care basics, health insurance, and self-care tips. It includes specific information about how to seek mental health treatment if they need it. In addition to reviewing the signs and symptoms of depression and suicidality, students are prompted to discuss substance abuse and other risky behaviors.
The programming is relevant for all students, whether they are headed to college, the military, or into full-time employment. For these young adults, this program graduates the “T” in the ACT® message from “Tell” to “Treatment: seek treatment for yourself or a friend.” Therefore, the message is Acknowledge, Care, Treatment (ACT).
Like the SOS Program, the Second ACT gives students a “mental health check-up” before they graduate, providing them with the knowledge they need to recognize the symptoms of depression and the signs of suicide. Additionally, the program provides action steps that students can take to effectively respond to these symptoms.