September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, and I'd like to take the occasion to reach out to you with important information about an issue that impacts our entire community.
Suicide is preventable. Research tells us that acknowledging and talking about suicide reduces rather than increases dangerous thoughts and behaviors. This is a critical conversation for the Cherry Creek School District community, and it's one we can't shy away from having.
We know that when young people have a sense of belonging at school and are connected to supportive networks of peers, teachers and administrators, they are more likely to have a positive experience at school and in life. We strive to ensure all students feel safe, supported and valued at school. Safety is an everyday practice in our district.
That's why we have support systems and resources in place for students who are struggling with depression or mental health issues. Our social workers and school psychologists draw on best practices to ensure students of all ages are equipped with healthy ways to deal with difficult feelings. This year, we again increased mental health staff in our schools. We also have full-time nurses at every school. Additionally, programs like Signs of Suicide and Sources of Strength empower students with the tools they need to recognize warning signs and to take action by reporting such behavior.
You can find information and resources regarding our programs on our Suicide Prevention page on the district website.
It is also critical that adults recognize signs of suicide, feel equipped to discuss the topic and know how to help kids in crisis. Warning signs include:
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct statements, indirect statements or notes and plans,
- Prior suicidal behavior,
- Making final arrangements (e.g., giving away important belongings, etc.),
- Preoccupation with death,
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.
This is important work, and we can't do it alone. As parents, as guardians, as peers and as community members, you play a critical role in our efforts. You are the eyes and ears of Cherry Creek Schools, and your involvement can make a difference. I encourage you to familiarize yourself with our Safe2Tell line and the resources available through Colorado Crisis Services to make sure you know who to call to report concerns.
Most importantly, talk to the young people in your life. Let them know that they are an important part of your family and the community. Let them know they have a network of support, care and love. Carry the message that while difficult times in life are inevitable, suicide is not. Together, we can make a difference in the lives of every single one of our students.
Scott A. Siegfried, Ph.D.