For Immediate Release
Contact: Scott Oxarart
775.328.2414 or 775.772.1659
Reno, NV – Thanks to $100,000 in funding from the Washoe County Health District, Children’s Cabinet and the Washoe County School District will continue important programming on suicide and depression for seventh grade students in the district. Signs of Suicide (SOS), the nationally recognized suicide prevention program, teaches students how to identify the symptoms of depression and suicidal thoughts in themselves or friends, and encourages help-seeking through the use of the ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) technique. Children’s Cabinet case managers and licensed therapists visit classrooms to provide age-appropriate suicide education to students and offer screenings for students whose parents provide a signed consent form.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among children ages 10 to 14 doubled in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014 and has been rising steadily. In 2015, Washoe County School District mandated suicide prevention education for seventh graders because research and evidence showed this age group was particularly vulnerable to depression and suicidal thoughts. Currently there are approximately 5,500 seventh graders in Washoe County schools. The new funding from the Health District will continue the general program in all public middle schools. One goal is to screen over 1,300 (or over 25%) of those students during this school year.
“Suicide prevention is focused on school because it's a place where kids are often and where a lot of problems manifest. Providing SOS programming to students, parents and educators can be life-changing and life-saving,” says Kim Young, interim executive director of the Children’s Cabinet. “Working with the School District and the Health District to implement this program represents both a community response to caring about the mental health of our kids, and an active effort to improve outcomes and communication.”
The Washoe County Health District’s 2018-2020 Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) identified adolescent suicide prevention as a top priority for positive public health outcomes in the community. “The Washoe County Health District is proud to provide funding to support the Signs of Suicide program,” said Washoe County Health District Chair Kitty Jung. “It plays a key role in educating our youth and provides a free screening for kids who may be at risk. This program has been identified as a successful tool and we hope to help families educate themselves and become aware of available resources to reduce youth suicide,” Jung said.
While seventh graders are a priority in Washoe County School District’s mandate, the SOS program will conduct screenings when requested by other schools including elementary schools, private schools, and high schools. In 2017-2018, the SOS program completed 19 screenings at various schools.
The SOS Prevention Program is a nationally recognized, evidence-based, program for middle and high school-age students. Suicide prevention is also part of the Washoe County School District’s high school health curriculum. Before engaging with students, families have an opportunity to review the program and are provided with additional guidance and resources if students need additional support.