Sunday, September 3, 2017

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month—a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic. We use this month to reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and connect individuals with suicidal ideation to treatment services. It is also important to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention. nami/Suicide-Prevention-Awareness-Month

While the number of deaths by suicide in younger children is statistically small, the number of attempts in students ages 10 to 14 has increased dramatically over the last few years, especially for girls. And even if they haven’t made an attempt, there are children in every school who are thinking about suicide sptsusa.org/elementary-school  We need to think about suicide as an attempt to solve a problem of intense emotional pain with impaired skills. As counselors we need to have productive way to have a conversation about suicide with any aged student. Never assume just because a person is young that they will not attempt suicide. If a student is talking about wanting to die to a risk assessment and consult with another mental health provider. ALWAYS notify parents and document the notification even if you don't believe there is an imminent threat. Continue to take threats seriously: Follow through is important even after the child calms down or informs you or the parent "they didn't mean it." Avoid assuming behavior is simply attention seeking (but at the same time avoid reinforcing suicide threats; e.g., by allowing the student who has threatened suicide to avoid or get something to make them feel better).

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death overall so many children and families are impacted by suicide. Using "suicide death" or" death by suicide" is more helpful than saying "successful suicide" or "committed suicide." Often times family members will not tell the child that it was a suicide death. I don't think this is helpful and further adds to the stigma and shame. People bereaved by suicide often experience complicated bereavement. There can be many other feelings in addition to grief including shock, social isolation, anger and guilt. The often sudden and sometimes unexpected nature of the death can also be extremely traumatic for those who lived with or knew the person. 

There are more resources at save.org/ but these are geared toward older students. Suicide prevention programs are becoming more common in secondary schools because of the increasing number of suicide attempts. I am not aware of any aimed at elementary learners. However, it is important to get information in the hands of staff and parents about the warning signs of suicide and always #BeThe1ToAsk. That is basic mental health first aide.  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

September is Attendance Awareness Month


We use a version of this board every September to tell our learning community what time children are let into classroom so they can be ready and in their seats at 9:00 when the bell rings and we start with the Pledge of Allegiance. We really focus on pushing out the message that we want learners in school #EVERYDayALLDay unless they meet one of the criteria in our policy for excused absence (like sick with a fever about 101 or attending services for death of family member). We use messaging from this site attendanceworks We are a big Twitter use school so we use that to keep letting parents know the importance of establishing a positive pattern at the beginning of the school year. One year we piloted a program to focus our efforts on one kindergarten class. At the end of each month we sent home a thank you note to the parents who had their child in school every school day all day that month. When we evaluated this intervention the parents told us not to bother with the cards because they were "just doing their job as parents." We also did not have a significant difference between that class and our other 4 kindergarten classes. Even though it did not work we published our findings and it did send the message we are taking this very seriously.
We have students who are chronically tardy which we address through our attendance team. Once a month the attendance secretary, social worker, counselor, and administrator meet to review the data. That is when we decide who will get a letter, phone call, chat with counselor, small group, and eventually a meeting to develop an attendance plan. One of the school counseling program goals is always aimed at attendance.  Overall our school has a high attendance rate (above 96%) but each year we address the students who the prior year have been chronically absent or tardy (2 days a month), are chronically tardy, or both. 
We also look at the learners who are at risk to develop a chronic pattern of not being in school consistently. Here is a draft of our goal this year:
 By June 2018, 75% of the students who had 10 or more tardy arrivals or absences in the 2016-2017 school year, will decrease the targeted behavior.
If anyone has a success story please leave it in Comments.