Saranac Lake Middle School counselor Stacy Black helps give a presentation on the Saranac Lake Central School District’s suicide prevention protocol to board members during the Feb. 1 meeting.
The Saranac Lake Central School District mental health team will be launching a suicide prevention campaign after spring break that will include training faculty and staff and educating students in grades 6-12.
Counselors gave a presentation on the district’s suicide prevention protocol during the Board of Education meeting Feb. 1 in the Petrova School library.
“It’s a solid response, and it takes into consideration responsibility on the part of the district and its employees as well as the confidentiality and the dignity of our students and their feelings,” said Middle School counselor Cindy Rockhill. “We take any and all mental health issues very seriously and recognize the importance of having staff knowing they have our support and our assistance.”
If a student threatens suicide or self-harm, there is a protocol in place to help that student and support the family, according to Middle School counselor Stacy Black. The mental health team — which consists of all the school district’s counselors, social workers and psychologists — recently reviewed and updated its procedures.
“Basically if a student makes any threat of self-harm or suicide, the faculty or staff member is to inform one of us in the building about it as soon as possible, immediately,” Black said. “And then what we do is we provide a suicide risk assessment screening for that student immediately.”
After the screening is complete, parents are notified, and, if necessary, mental health referrals are made. Sometimes they find that the student is not at risk; however, they will talk to the parent anyway. Appropriate mental health referrals to community resources may be made. Counselors also work with the community resource and parents upon the child’s return to school.
“The bottom line, as a group, is that we always err on the side of caution and the safety of our students,” Black said.
The mental health team will also be launching a suicide prevention campaign for students in grades 6-12 after spring break (March 26 - April 6), re-introducing the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program that the district instituted a few years ago, according to JoAnn Latourelle, a prevention educator at the high school and Bloomingdale Elementary School.
“This is a worldwide suicide prevention program that began in 1994 with the completed suicide of a young man and his schoolmate’s efforts to support and educate each other following his death,” Latourelle said. “His parents were very active in this as well.”
The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program concentrates on preventing youth suicide and attempts by empowering individuals and communities through leadership, awareness and education. As such, they identify and collaborate with support networks to reduce stigma and help save lives.
“In the past, there’s been the old myth that if we talk about suicide, that it’s risky, but that’s totally false,” Latourelle said.
The Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program teaches students and faculty that talking is the first step in trying to prevent suicide.
“It is the act which may break through the isolation that a suicidal person feels,” Latourelle said, adding that one out of five teens is thinking about suicide and one out of every 10 will make an attempt.
All middle and high school staff members will be given a Safe TALK presentation at the upcoming professional development day, and the class will be sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The Safe TALK training will show staff how to be alert to the possibility that someone may be having suicidal thoughts and to refer them to mental health resources in the district.
As part of the program, “Be-a-Link — Save a Life!” suicide prevention business cards will be handed out at schools. They include suicide hotline phone numbers — (800) 273-8255 (TALK) and (800) 784-2433 (SUICIDE) — and let people know that “It’s OK to Ask 4 Help!”