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Addressing suicide prevention

Suicide Prevention was determined a topic needing attention during Jessamine County’s recent Community Health Assessment Forum.

Jessamine County Health Department Director Randy Gooch said there is a plan on instituting community work through the Healthy and Safe Communities Coalition soon, and much of the issues seen within the community begin with undiagnosed or unaddressed mental health issues.

“We must address (these health issues) as a community,” Gooch said. “I know our schools and other partners are doing some work on Adverse Childhood Experiences which often determine the level of risk for this type of tragedy.”

Currently, JCHD offers a bullying and violence prevention program for middle school and sixth-grade students called “Too Good for Violence.” Designed as a peer program to teach high school students to deliver curriculum to middle school students topics include bonding and relationships, peer pressure, conflict resolution, anger management, identifying and managing bullying situations and entertainment-related violence.

“This curriculum is not necessarily a suicide prevention program but is more specifically related to bullying and violence that could connect to suicide,” Andrea Brown from the Jessamine County Health Department said. “We have been interested in expanding our work and doing more work related to suicide prevention. We have connected with the school system to begin working on a program called Sources of Strength. This is a best practice youth suicide prevention program designed to engage peer social networks, to change unhealthy norms and cultures ultimately preventing suicide, bullying, and substance abuse. This program is more of a ‘club’ rather than a curriculum.”

Working with Emily Earlywine and Kelli Canup from Jessamine County Schools, Brown said the program is in the early stages of development. Earlywine suggests the program will likely not start until next school year.

“Right now, I am talking with other educators in the state who do have the program in their school so I can learn what is working for them and what parts of the program they are struggling with,” Earlywine said.

Jessamine County Schools Director of Public Relations Patrice Jones said many things are being done district-wide regarding suicide prevention efforts.

She said proactive programs are in place throughout JCS that help to build coping skills and resilience which include character development, conflict resolution, kindness initiatives, leadership development and bullying prevention.

In addition, Jones said a minimum of two hours of suicide prevention training for middle and high school staff is required to help them recognize the risk factors and warning signs, as well as to keep them informed on how to make referrals to students if they need to.

“Proactive programs and materials include utilizing the Jason Foundation for additional staff training,” Jones said. “We utilize classroom speakers, post information recourses on the district website. Email blasts, newsletters and other sources are distributed to parents with educational materials on how to help their children with strategies and coping skills. We are currently working to utilize a new program called Sources of Strength that utilizes peer leaders. We share information on National Suicide Prevention hotline and disseminate suicide prevention awareness information to all middle and high school students annually.”

Jones said JCS counselors provide one-on-one and group assistance to students. She also said JCS partner with the community mental health agencies and local mental health professionals who are also located in the schools to provide more intensive services. There is also a STOP tip line to report inappropriate behavior and concerns, as well as a Crisis Response Team who responds to events involving students or employees as needed.

“Suicide prevention support for our students is three-pronged,” Superintendent Matt Moore said. “We utilize a proactive approach that lays a strong foundation by helping students develop confidence, coping skills and resilience. These programs, including character education, conflict resolution and initiatives that encourage kindness, help students foster healthy relationships with others and strengthen support systems.

“Next, we ensure our students, staff and families have the information that they need to be well-informed. Our middle- and high-school staff receive a minimum of two hours of suicide prevention training each year and students and their families are provided with resources annually as well. And, when necessary, we also employ responsive programs; our counselors provide individual assistance to students who need help or who are in crisis, and we have an amazing Crisis Response Team that is deployed to meet larger-scale needs.”

For more information visit sourcesofstrength.org or www.jessaminehealth.org/ or www.jessamine.k12.ky.us/ or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.