By Shelby Stewart
Brandon school district is working on suicide prevention this year.
“The goal is that the Brandon School Community aims for or will have a zero percent suicide rate among our Brandon/Ortonville students and community members,” said Diane Zedan, director of special education and preschool programs.
During the Monday night board meeting, Zedan presented the plan for the district to educate regarding awareness and signs of suicide consideration, including teaching individuals how to intervene with suicidal thoughts and plans to top the suicide from occurring.
“We want to give structured plans on how to support individuals with these thoughts and plans,” she said. “We want to design and provide opportunities for practicing these skills throughout the year.”
For fourth and fifth graders, the plan is to teach students empathy and how to be a good friend, how to recognize signs of sadness in themselves and others, and how to reach out to a trusted adult for help. They also plan to teach the students who to contact if someone says they want to harm themselves or others.
For sixth-12th graders, the plan is to teach suicide warning signs, how to respond if a friend shares a desire to harm themselves, and risks and protective factors, as well as where to seek help.
There is also training for parents, teachers, support staff and community members to recognize suicide warning signs and make parents aware of what to look for in their children and where to go for help.
So far this year the Suicide Prevention 101 has been presented to transportation and custodial staff, secondary teaching staff, elementary teaching staff and food service staff as well as some secretaries.
“A recent survey found that 64 percent of teens believe the experience of COVID-19 will have a lasting impact on their generation’s mental health,” she said in her presentation. “In Michigan, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and the fourth leading cause of death for ages 35-54.”
One current resource already out in the community is the Blackhawk Help and Hotline card. These cards are distributed to every student in the high school and middle school, and contain phone numbers to contact in crisis including OK2Say, Common Ground, the National Runaway Safeline, the Polaris Project for Human Trafficking, the Blackhawk Hotline and Brandon Groveland Youth Assistance.
“Just call somebody and we’ll follow through,” she said. “The goal is zero.”