After federal health experts spent weeks in Stark County investigating the area's alarming rate of teen suicides— a dozen in an approximately eight-month period— federal health experts have released interim recommendations for suicide prevention based on a survey done in the spring.
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Over the weekend, The Stark County Health Department announced five interim recommendations based on an initial analysis of the Northeast Ohio Youth Health Services.
Develop a protocol to help students at risk of suicide
The first strategy is to implement protocols for responding students at risk of suicide before carrying out additional strategies to help identify students at risk of suicide. Health officials said identifying students who are at risk is more likely to prevent suicide when procedures are in place to ensure students receive appropriate services.
Develop a protocol to respond safely to a suicide death
Actively monitoring information and misinformation shared by students on social media can help students in need of support during a tragic event like a suicide. Unintentional glamorizing a teen's death by suicide and suggesting it was caused by a single problem can raise suicide risk among other young people, according to the report.
Identify students who are at risk of suicide
Health experts said there is no single strategy to identify students at risk of suicide. Staff, students and families can become educated on warning signs of suicide. Those who are looking for immediate help can contact 911, their mental health provider or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Integrate suicide awareness and prevention into the curriculum for staff, students and families
Studies mentioned in the report said most young people who are suicidal talk with peers about their concerns, but as few as 25 percent tell an adult about their suicidal peer. The strategy includes suggestions to have a curriculum for students in school.
Enhance protective factors
Teaching coping and problem-solving skills to families and students can be a critical component of suicide prevention. Schools can promote connectedness, which is "when students believe that adults and peers care about their learning as well as them as individuals," the analysis said.
All the recommendations are considered interim until a final analysis of the survey data is completed. The recommendations have been shared with area school districts, according to Kirkland Norris, of the Stark County Health Department.