By Oliver Lazenby
Blaine school district staff is working through a training course called Signs of Suicide (SOS), a national program aimed at preventing youth suicide by providing information about warning signs, risk factors and mental health needs.
All district staff will eventually take the 90-minute training; many already have.
“We’ve trained a wide range of staff groups starting in late August, and this will be continuing through the fall,” said school district superintendent Ron Spanjer. “We’re committed to working through all our staff groups with this.”
A national nonprofit called Screening for Mental Health created the program, and the Washington state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction endorses it.
In the 2016 Healthy Youth Survey, 28 percent of Blaine 10th grade respondents and 30 percent of 12th grade respondents said they had considered suicide in the past year (in each class, less than 40 percent of students answered the question; the survey’s authors say that if less than 40 percent respond, the results “are likely not representative.”
The SOS program includes a 50-minute prevention lesson for seventh and ninth-grade health classes. These lessons will include an exit ticket asking students if they need to talk to someone about their mental health or a friend’s. Mentalhealthscreening.org calls the SOS program unique in that it combines educational curriculum with a brief screening for depression.
Notes will go out to inform parents before students take the course, Spanjer told the Blaine School Board at an October 22 meeting.