ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County schools plan to train all middle and high school students how to spot signs of suicide.
The goal is to focus on prevention after several school shootings, including the one in Parkland, and put a spotlight on mental health issues.
It's especially relevant because the district said one student already committed suicide this school year.
Currently, the "Signs of Suicide" program teaches students how to spot warning signs of depression and suicide. It could soon be rolled out in all Orange County middle and high schools.
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Some of the information is already shared in presentations or health classes, but the district wants to make the training uniform for everyone.
“We really wanted to get something that could be districtwide to make sure that we hit all our students,” said OCPS Senior Director of Student Services Mary Bridges.
On Tuesday, the school board will vote on an agreement with the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation, a nonprofit formed after the Connecticut school shooting in 2012 that left 20 children and 6 staff members dead.
Bridges said the group will train administrators and mental health workers, who will then train students.
“We don't want any of those students to fall through the cracks. So if we can see the signs of a student in crisis, then we can give them the resources that they need,” Bridges said.
In 2018, the CDC reported suicide rates across all age groups increased more than 25 percent nationwide since 1999. In Florida, there's been greater attention on mental health since the Parkland shooting in 2018.
“We wanted to make sure we were getting something down to the students and we also wanted to make sure we were doing preventative rather than just responding to students in crisis,” Bridges said.
There's no cost for the program. The district also plans to roll out the "Start With Hello" campaign, a program encouraging students to connect and help others who might feel isolated.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, there is help for you. Contact the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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