Dear BHHS Freshman Parents & Guardians,
The teen years are marked by a roller coaster ride of emotions that can be difficult for teens, their parents, and educators. It can be easy to misread depression as normal adolescent turmoil. Depression is among the most common of mental illnesses and appears to be occurring at a much earlier age. In fact, the past decade has seen teen suicide rates double.
In order to proactively address this issue, BHHS is offering depression screening and suicide prevention training for all freshmen as a part of the SOS, Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. This program has been used by thousands of schools over the past ten years and has been proven successful at increasing help-seeking by students concerned about themselves or a friend. This is also the only school-based suicide prevention program selected by Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s national registry of evidence-based programs and practices that addresses suicide risk and depression while reducing suicide attempts. In a randomized control study, the SOS program showed a reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40% (BMC Public Health, July 2007).
Our goals in participating in this program are straightforward:
- To help our students understand that depression is a treatable illness, and help them assess whether or not they may have symptoms consistent with depression;
- To provide students with training on how to identify the warning signs of depression and potential suicide ideation in a friend; and
- To impress upon teens that they can help themselves or a friend by taking the important step of talking to a responsible adult about their concerns.
The program will take place with ninth graders during their 3rd period classes on either 9/20 or 9/27.
BHHS counselors, school psychologists and NormanAid wellness counselors will present a video and facilitate a conversation about prevention concepts, and then students will complete a brief questionnaire. This depression screening tool shows thoughts and feelings that parents may be unaware that their child is having. This tool cannot provide a diagnosis of depression, but does give an indication of whether a student should be referred for additional services. Counselors and school psychologists will follow up with students whose symptoms are consistent with depression on the screening and any students who indicates suicide risk. A counselor will contact parents if a student is deemed at-risk for depression or suicide.
The below link will give you access to a parent version of the same questionnaire to make you aware of the type of questions that your child will be answering and to help you assess your teen’s risk for depression. The SOS site will also provide parents with information about our suicide prevention efforts and helpful tools for supporting your child’s mental health.
If you are concerned about your teen, we encourage you to speak with them and follow up with a mental health professional for a complete evaluation. Please contact your teen’s school counselor if you need referrals or help finding a mental health professional. While this is a proven research-based program, it could never take the place of conversation between parent and child.
If you have any questions or concerns about this program or your child’s participation in the program, please contact their school counselor or Ali Norman-Franks, BHHS Wellness Counselor, at (310) 551-5100 EXT 8717. If we do not hear from you, we will assume your child has permission to participate in this program.