It’s a tough topic to tackle, but students at Progress Village Middle Magnet School in Tampa are learning they can do their part to help prevent suicide by their peers.
During the lunch-hour, students listened to a presentation by counselors urging them to ACT Now. Suicide prevention is part of the focus during the district’s anti-bullying month.
Acknowledge: notice warning signs, note changes in behavior.
Care: listen attentively, don’t act shocked, make judgements or agree to confidentiality.
Tell someone immediately: contact an administrator, Student Services professional, or other trusted adult.
“We’re going to talk about the topic of mental health,” Progress Village Middle Magnet School Principal Andrew Olson told students. “We’re going to talk about something that’s not always easy to discuss.”
Students watched a video of a teen talking about her concern for a friend and how she reached out to a school staff member for help.
“She was saying things like, ‘I don’t know what to do anymore. I really just want to run away right now.’ She never said explicitly that she was having thoughts about suicide, but I was so scared,” the teen recalled.
Progress Village sixth grade student, Amalia, said she faced something similar with a friend last year. “My friend wanted to disappear, but I was trying to tell her that I personally needed her, because she was my best friend. So, she didn’t disappear,” Amalia said.
“You’re the first ones, your friends are talking to you and you’re the first person who could know something. Or it could be yourself,” explained Social Worker Beverly Adams.
Ansley, a sixth grade student, said she learned a lot from the program. “If they’re thinking about doing anything bad to themselves or committing suicide that I should tell an adult immediately, and it’ll help them.”
Counselor Angela Zeman taught students about mental health and how it’s just as important as physical health. “Mental health is our sense of self-esteem, our sense of well-being, how we’re feeling about ourselves and our confidence.”
Sixth grade student, Anthony, recognized that sometimes classmates feel peer-pressure or despair. He took away a positive message from the presentation. “Bullying and people just feel like they’re not worth it anymore, and you are. Everyone has a genuine place in the world,” Anthony said.
“Sometimes we don’t have positive thoughts or feelings, and it’s important – number one, for you to feel safe at this school and in your life,” said Principal Olson. “Number two, that you feel connected to an adult that you can share with. And number three, that we can openly talk about these things, so we can help you when you need it.”
“Make sure to tell an adult and try to stay positive,” is what Isabella, a sixth grade student, said she learned about ACTing Now.
“We have to make sure that we’re sending the right message for them to ACT Now, and let us know know what’s going on with their lives. Many times we don’t know what’s going on, and then it’s too late,” said Counselor Sharon SeaBrooks.
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