Mental Health Awareness Month

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people and the second-leading cause of death among college students, according to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention.

Beginning in 2023, Ohio middle school and high school students will take part in an hour of coursework specifically discussing suicide awareness and prevention, violence prevention, and social isolation, according to new guide-lines released by the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).

Ohio’s 133rd General Assembly recently enacted House Bill 123, the “Safety and Violence Education Students (SAVE Students) Act,” to address school security and youth suicide awareness education and training.

The bill requires that beginning with the 2023-24 school year, students in grades 6-12 receive at least one hour (or one standard class period) per year of instruction in: suicide awareness and prevention; safety training and violence prevention; and social inclusion.

And they must continue to receive this one hour of instruction every year afterward.

According to Tamara Strom, Communications Director for Solon City Schools, the district utilizes a specialized training program for staff, Public School Works, which includes suicide prevention training.

“The district meets with Public School Works annually to review its employee training plans and makes adjustments to training modules accordingly,” she said.

She added that the course on suicide prevention is assigned to new hires each year and every two years thereafter for staff members incompliance with state law.

As for student education, Ms. Strom said “suicide prevention and mental health aware-ness are included in the high school health curriculum and any expansions to meet new legal requirements for additional grade levels are being assessed by the district’s curriculum leaders now.”

Under the new statute, local school boards must use an ODE approved training program which encompasses:

1). How to teach school personnel to identify the signs and symptoms of depression, suicide and self-harm in students;

2). How to teach students to identify the signs and symptoms of depression, suicide and self-harm in their peers;

3). How to identify appropriate mental health services within schools and larger communities and when and how to refer youth and their families to those services;

4). How to teach students about mental health and depression, warning signs of suicide and the importance of and processes for seeking help on behalf of self and peers and reporting of these behaviors;

5). How to identify observable warning signs and signals of individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others;

6). The importance of taking threats seriously and seeking help; and

7). How students can report dangerous, violent, threatening, harmful or potentially harmful activity, including the use of the district’s chosen anonymous reporting program.

The approved training programs for social inclusion must include:

1). What social isolation is and how to identify it in others;

2). What social inclusion is and the importance of establishing connections with peers;

3). When and how to seek help for peers who may be socially isolated; and

4). How to utilize strategies for more social inclusion in classrooms and the school.

According to the Ohio Department of Education, parents may opt their children out of this instruction. However, it will be part of the ODE’s curriculum requirements beginning in August 2023.

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