NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — This can be difficult for parents to hear, but suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 14.
As part of National Suicide Prevention Week, Norfolk Public Schools rolled out a campaign to grab kids’ attention.
It’s not big or flashy, but posters hanging around Azalea Gardens Middle School have a powerful message about suicide, the risks and the resources to help.
School counselor Alice Spence and her staff are also gathering small groups of kids and going over the S.A.F.E. schools message.
S.A.F.E. stands for: Suicide Prevention For Everyone. It teaches kids to Spread the word, Access help, Flag a trusted adult and Engage in self care.
“To get the posters out this year is going to help us spread the information,” Spence said, who added kids feel stress in different ways. “This is the real world … things are happening … there’s a lot of stress in the communities.”
Safe schools specialist Dehon Mack is in charge of the campaign to spread the word in Norfolk schools this week and beyond.
“We are going to get directly into our classrooms and we’re going to work with our 4th, 6th and 9th graders and beyond, maybe our 12th graders in that transition period. We’re developing curriculum for that.”
Virginia passed a law last year mandating mental health education for 9th and 10th graders.
Norfolk plans to start age appropriate lessons in elementary school, as researchers have noted alarming increases in the number of young children visiting emergency rooms for suicidal thoughts and attempts.
They are also training all staff, from teachers and nurses to cafeteria workers and bus drivers, on how to spot warning signs and respond.
“That friendly face, that trusted adult, we think that just by having the information out we feel that we are making some changes that we’re having an impact already because information is power,” Mack said.
There are many suicide risk factors and warning signs to look for including:
depression, problems with drugs or alcohol, talking or writing about suicide.
Resources for help: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Norfolk Crisis Line: (757) 622-1126 (24 hours / 7 days)
Virginia Beach Psychiatric Center: 757-627-LIFE (5433)