Stanton Elementary students are learning to recognize the warning signs of potential suicide and how to get help.
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Wheeling is visiting area middle and high schools and Family Services Navigator Meghan Elliott led presentations in the fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms at Stanton on March 17. Students learned the significance of the acronym “ACT,” which stands for acknowledge, care and tell.
Officials believe that acknowledging the warning signs of potential suicide, showing the affected person someone cares and telling a trusted adult could make a significant difference. Signs include a change of sleep pattern, lack of interaction with others, loss of concentration, anger or irritability and feelings of helplessness, and those who identify them should seek help.
Through videos and discussion, students learned that talking to someone about suicide does not make the affected person suicidal; rather, they may feel relieved to open up to others. Depression was also defined as a prolonged sadness which may be compounded by other negative thoughts or feelings, and it may be caused by chemical changes, some possible occurrence or may even run in the family. It can be treated with therapy and medication, and officials said the most important thing is to seek help. Trusted adults to tell may include parents, grandparents, school staff, counselors, coaches, club leaders, religious leaders and even police officers, firefighters or EMT’s. Like physical health, mental health also requires obtaining treatment.
“It is important to take any mention of suicide seriously and to tell a trusted adult right away,” Elliott said.
The presentation also touched on how people may use drugs, alcohol or self-injury to cope, but only seeking treatment can help their condition. Other advice included not ignoring a concern or promising to keep it a secret while those who feel depressed should find positive outlets such as exercise, sports, spending time with friends and family, surrounding oneself with uplifting people, journaling and doing things they enjoy. Social media could also be used for good by staying connected to others and seeking online support groups and resources, although professional help is important to feel better.
Elliott encouraged the students to practice the coping skills regularly so they can use them when needed, then she provided a survey to complete. She noted that more resources were available with the 988 Suicide and Crisis Line or by texting 741741.
Elliott said NAMI has visited schools in Brooke and Ohio counties and the surrounding area to spread the message and the program works with people from grade 5 through adulthood.
“Mental health affects everyone and we’re seeing it affect younger and younger ages. They can look out for warning signs to help themselves and their friends,” she added.
Stanton Principal Shannah Scotch said the issue impacts children and families and the program was vital to help recognize the signs.
“With this becoming more and more evident, not only in the community but with families, this is important because of the information for kids to be aware of,” Scotch concluded. “Everyone needs to be mindful of the signs to watch for.”
This marked the district’s second presentation on mental health and followed speaker Steve Wize’s visit to Edison High School on March 13. NAMI representatives also attended that event, which was held in conjunction with Mental Fitness of Cranberry, Pa., and the Josh Merriman Foundation.