The San Diego County Office of Education, along with the California Department of Education, announced a free suicide prevention training program Wednesday available online to middle and high school staff and students throughout the state.
"The COVID-19 pandemic not only disrupted the academic lives of our students and families, but it may have contributed to emotional and mental health challenges that some of our students struggle with," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. "It is important that students know that they have someone to turn to within their school community when they are feeling overwhelmed. Providing this specialized training to school staff and peers can not only be utilized to support students in crisis during the critical time we are in now, but any time a student is feeling despondent, stressful, and alone."
The online training program is called LivingWorks Start and is aligned with the department's "Model Youth Suicide Prevention Policy" to address the needs of high-risk populations.
According to a recent report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24. For every youth who dies by suicide, an estimated 100 to 200 young people make suicide attempts, the report said.
The funding for the program was secured by Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, and included in Assembly Bill 1808, which was passed in 2018.
"One of my biggest highlights of 2018 was securing $1.7 million to fund online suicide prevention training for California middle and high school staff and students,'' Berman said. "I'm thankful that the training program is being launched across the state, particularly during this challenging and unprecedented time. As students cope with school closures and isolation, it's absolutely critical that administrators, teachers, and students know what to look for and how to respond to help prevent youth suicide."
The program will be rolled out in two phases, with school staff trained first and students trained during the second phase, which will take place in September. Some of the training topics include how to recognize when someone is having suicidal thoughts, intervention strategies, and connections to support services.
"One thing that's increasingly recognized in suicide prevention efforts is that you have to engage large numbers of people," said Rick Trimp, president of LivingWorks. "When students are thinking about suicide, they're likely to confide in a peer or a trusted teacher. Having students and teachers trained to recognize when someone is struggling and connect them to further help empowers the whole school community to come together and support those at risk."
The San Diego County Office of Education was selected by the California Department of Education to lead the effort and make the training available to local educational agencies through their education departments.
"This is not a one-size-fits-all solution," said Paul Gothold, San Diego County Superintendent of Schools. "By working with all 58 county offices of education to distribute this online training to their areas of greatest need, we are honoring the expertise, resources, and needs of each community."