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MCPS implements new Suicide Prevention Program

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MCPS implements new Suicide Prevention Program

Graphic by Valerie Wang

Graphic by Valerie Wang

Graphic by Valerie Wang

Michelle Ma, Features Writer

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For many of us, suicide is a serious topic that we have heard about on the news or learned about in health class. However, it is when it hits close to home that we, as a community, feel its full impact.

A year has passed since two students committed suicide at Whitman and Walter Johnson High School, with their deaths resonating deeply with fellow students across the county. However, what many still do not know is that throughout the country, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 5,723 people between ages 15 and 25 commit suicide every year.

In response, schools have begun to increase awareness about mental health. All middle schools and high schools in Montgomery County Public Schools are implementing the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program, which, at Richard Montgomery, will start on the week of December 17th and continue through April. Counselors will visit 11th grade English classes on Monday to explain what students can do to help their friends in need. The program will help start the discussion about suicide and depression so that students feel more comfortable talking about them and dispel the myths surrounding them.

“People believe that talking about suicide may give someone the idea,” school psychologist Emily Levine said. “That is not true! Actually talking about the subject encourages others to discuss their situations openly which is one of the most helpful things you can do!” Rather than bottling it up inside, students should to talk to trusted adults, whether it is to seek help, or simply to have someone to guide them through a difficult time.

“I hope that more students will understand that it is not weak to ask for help in regards to any mental health issue,” she said. “You are not alone.” Figures from the National Institute of Mental Health show that in the U.S., 12.8% of adolescents aged 12-17 experience a major depressive episode, which is roughly 3.1 million people. When going through a tough time, it is important to know that there are many others experiencing something similar and that there is no shame in getting help.

Another issue that the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program will tackle is helping students understand the signs of depression. Lost interest, changes in appetite, fatigue, and a hopeless outlook are all indications that a friend or a family member may be suffering from depression. Once students are able to recognize this, they can encourage others to talk to an adult or to seek help.

“Sometimes it’s hard for someone to realize they need help,” sophomore Nandita Gallacher said. “That’s why it’s important for us to be conscious of these signs so that we can give them that nudge in the right direction.” If a community as a whole is made more aware, students who are suffering from depression will find it easier to get the support they need.

The most important thing for students to know is that they should feel comfortable talking about mental health, whether it is to a counselor, a family member, or a trusted adult. “You should never have to go through a difficult time alone,” Mrs. Levine said. “Ask for help and that trusted adult will help you.”

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MCPS implements new Suicide Prevention Program