As part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, HISD is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Greater Houston to get the word out on suicide prevention measures and how to talk to teens about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.
Last December, NAMI Greater Houston trained 16 new volunteers to speak at middle and high school campuses about mental health wellness, mental illness, how to be a friend of someone dealing with mental health challenges, and suicide intervention. This past summer, NAMI volunteers began working with HISD to train district administrators, social workers, special education case managers, and other employees.
HISD has its own Crisis Intervention team, which is part of the new Social and Emotional Learning department. There are nine psychologists on staff under the direction of Dr. Lauren Goonan. All are licensed as both psychologists and as specialists in school psychology in the State of Texas.
“Our job is to ensure the emotional safety and health of all HISD students and staff,” said Dr. Goonan. “Every HISD campus has a mental health liaison who refers anyone experiencing emotional trauma to the Crisis Intervention staff. We then determine the appropriate level of treatment.”
The team provides training for staff members on suicide prevention, crisis intervention, early warning signs of mental health issues, and risky behaviors. For more information, including a directory of HISD psychologists and extensive resources, please see this page on the HISD website.
NAMI is working with HISD and has have been focusing on two programs – “Ending the Silence” and “Parents and Teachers as Allies.”
“Ending the Silence” is a 50-minute mental-health awareness program for high school students. Teens learn how to recognize the early warning signs of mental illness and what to do if someone they know is exhibiting these signs. The presentation is delivered by a NAMI two-person team to HISD students in health, science, or psychology classes, as well as to school clubs and after-school programs.
“Parents and Teachers as Allies” is a presentation for HISD school personnel who wish to help students. For more information about “Parents and Teachers as Allies” or “Ending the Silence,” contact NAMI at 713-970-4419.
HISD Social and Emotional Learning Director Michael Webb thanked NAMI Greater Houston for sending representatives to the Social and Emotional Learning Team meeting.
“The students and facilitators were excellent, engaging and very informative,” Webb said. NAMI Greater Houston will continue to make presentations to HISD staff and students during the current school year.
According to an April 2016 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate jumped 24% from 1999 to 2014. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24 years old, and it does not discriminate. Anyone, no matter their age or socio-economic background, can be suicidal. Any mention of suicide should be taken very seriously, and thanks to NAMI Greater Houston’s training, many HISD employees are now equipped to recognize the warning signs of suicide.
Some of the warning signs of suicide include:
- Threats or comments about killing themselves, also known as suicidal ideation, can begin with seemingly harmless thoughts like “I wish I wasn’t here,” but can become more overt and dangerous
- Increased alcohol and drug use
- Aggressive behavior
- Social withdrawal from friends, family and the community
- Dramatic mood swings
- Talking, writing or thinking about death
- Impulsive or reckless behavior
For more information, see http://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-Conditions/Related-Conditions/Risk-of-Suicide. The toll-free NAMI HelpLine is 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), and their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.