BY BECKY OSTERWALD
In a letter that was sent to the Cherry Creek School District CCSD) community, Dr. Scott A. Siegfried, superintendent, explained he authorized the hiring of a new Director of Community Partnerships for Crisis Prevention after students at Cherry Creek High School walked out of class April 5 protesting bullying and teen suicide.
Siegfried said the new director will have the responsibility “to advocate, coordinate and align state and local resources to better support a community-wide approach to mental health.”
In the letter from Siegfried, he explained “research tells us that when a suicide or suicides occur within a community, it can put other students more at risk of having suicidal thoughts or intentions. This is called contagion.
… It is extremely important for parents to talk to their children in the aftermath of the suicide of a peer and help them connect with mental health professionals if need be.”
All schools in CCSD have full-time mental health workers and registered nurse on-site working with students, Siegfried said. High schools are also supported by counselors.
Because suicide is the leading cause of death for 10- to 24-year old’s in Colorado, Seigfried said state and community resources are needed to support mental health, but those funds have been dwindling. The new director will help address this issue.
Abbe Smith, CCSD spokeswoman, explained that the district has invested in mental health resources. Beginning this year CCSD has starting follow a 3-2-1 model for mental health resource staff. She explained that there is at least one mental health worker at every elementary school, at least two at every middle school and at least three at every high school.
“Additionally, we have counselors supporting every middle and high school. So, for example, at Cherry Creek High School, we have 11 full-time counselors, three full-time psychologists, one part-time social worker and two full-time nurses serving our students. In addition to mental health staff, we have a number of programs and partnerships that support students on issues of suicide prevention and bullying, but also resiliency and creating positive cultures, she said.
The CCSD works with students to ensure they know what resources are available through counseling and mental health teams, Smith said. “But also, through programs at the school such as Signs of Suicide and Sources of Strength. All students have access to mental health professions regardless of their age and they do not need parental permission to talk to mental health works.” Parents are contacted if the student presents a danger to themselves or others, she added.
According to the CCSD website, the Signs of Suicide (SOS) has been implemented in middle and high schools and works on a “model of peer-to-peer intervention.” Research indicates that teenagers are more likely to turn toward other students than adults when having a mental health crisis so by training students to recognize the “signs of depression and suicide, and by empowering them to intervene when confronted with a friend who is exhibiting these symptoms. SOS capitalizes on an important social-emotional aspect of this developmental period.
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