As Students Return, Schools Take Steps To Prevent Suicides
As students return to school across Utah this week, school administrators are trying to tackle a pressing issue in the state: high rates of childhood suicide.
Utah’s rate of childhood suicide is roughly double the national average – it now surpasses traffic crashes as the leading cause of death for young people ages 11 to 17. Last year, two students at Logan High School died by suicide. Frank Schofield, superintendent of the Logan City School District, said that prompted immediate action.
“It led to a lot of conversation," Schofield said. "How do we respond? What are some of the things we should do?”
Schofield said his schools have worked with mental health experts and the state to identify three major areas of support. First, the use and awareness of SafeUT, a web-based app where students can be connected to a licensed counselor, or anonymously report warning signs in their peers.
“We have had that used by our students and we’ve been able to respond to some situations where we were told by students that one of their peers was in distress, contemplating self-harming behavior," Schofield said. "Staff were able to intervene and provide the help that student needed.”
Second, Schofield said Logan’s middle and high schools have introduced Hope Squads, teams of student volunteers trained to identify peers who may be in danger.
“When they have a peer they see is struggling," Schofield said, "they understand how to initiate the conversation to get them some help.”
Lastly, Schofield said school staff has been trained on making solid connections with students.
“How do we take steps to build those connections so that if they are in distress, they feel there’s someone at the school they can talk to?” said Schofield.
Schofield said the most important thing for students and parents to know is that there is help available.
“I think the most important message is if they are struggling with depression or thoughts of self-harming, there are countless people who care about them and love them and want them around and want to help," he said. "I would emphasize, as strongly as I possibly can, go talk to somebody. I guarantee you they want to help, they want you around.”
If you are thinking about suicide or know someone who is, there IS help available. Please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line --a free, 24/7, confidential text message service for people in crisis. Text the word HOME to 741741.