Blog Post #7
Depression awareness and suicide prevention programs are not required in Virginia public high schools. This is problematic because these programs give students information on depression and suicide and how to help others who are depressed. Awareness and prevention programs have also been shown to help decrease suicidal tendencies in high school students (King, Strunk, and Sorter). High school is the age at which many students are first exposed to depression and suicide in their personal lives, so participating in a depression awareness and suicide prevention program could greatly benefit them at this point in their life.
As someone who had a depressed friend in high school and struggled with how to help them, I believe a depression awareness and suicide prevention program would be really helpful to high school students. When I was in high school I continually tried to help my friend but nothing I said ever really seemed to help much. It would have been really beneficial to me and I’m sure to other students as well (there were five suicides in my high school in the time I was there) to have gone through a depression awareness and suicide prevention program in high school. Implementing awareness and prevention programs in public high schools in Virginia will help to prevent tragedies, like those that occurred in my high school, from happening in the future.
The first step towards implementing a depression awareness and suicide prevention program would be to figure out what information it should contain. The goal of the program is to help high school students understand depression better and be able to get help for someone else or themselves should they need it. So, ideally this program would continue to teach the definition of depression and its symptoms, but would go more in depth to explain how a depressed person feels. Getting high school students who have never been depressed to understand how a depressed person feels will be one of the hardest parts of teaching an awareness and prevention program because it is hard for people to empathize with a feeling they have never experienced. This program should also teach students effective ways to communicate with someone who is depressed that will be productive and actually help the person suffering from depression. Finally, the program should help students to be confident when going to an adult for help. This includes teaching them how to recognize suicidal symptoms in a friend and making them realize that it is better to go to an adult for help and have a friend be angry rather than lose that friend for good.
The second step would be to determine how to implement this program in schools. The program could be included in health classes or it could be introduced as a new required class. There are pros and cons to both options. The pros for implementing the program through health classes are that health class is already required for all high school students so it wouldn’t add another class for students to try and fit in before graduation. The cons are that since health teachers aren’t specifically trained in this area they might continue to gloss over it like they already do, or they may not be effective at teaching it so students will not benefit from it. The pros for implementing the program as a new class are that the people teaching it would be specialized to teach the information and so it would probably benefit the students more than the previous option. The cons are that students already have so many classes to take before graduation they might have trouble fitting it into their schedule. The most realistic way to implement the program is probably through health classes.
The third step to implementing this program would be to determine what the extra cost would be to design the program and for materials needed to implement it. The two main costs would be to pay whoever designs the program and to pay for textbooks that include the information for the program. These costs shouldn’t be too extreme but might cause some resistance.
These three steps are the basis the implementation of a depression awareness and suicide prevention program in Virginia high schools that would really benefit students and potentially reduce the number of suicides in high schools.
King, Keith, A., Catherine, M. Strunk, and Michael, T. Sorter. “Preliminary Effectiveness Of Surviving The Teens Suicide Prevention And Depression Awareness Program On Adolescents’ Suicidality And Self-Efficacy In Performing Help-Seeking Behaviors.” Journal Of School Health 81.9 (2011): 581-590. CINHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 27 Sept. 2013.