• Support Services

  • September 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 9/1/2022
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  • September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 9/1/2022

    Suicide is the leading cause of death among school-age youth. However, suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help.

    Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in a school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority ‒and are empowered to take the correct actions ‒ we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.

    Suicide Risk Factors

    Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odds of having suicidal thoughts. These include:

    • Mental illness, including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
    • Family stress/dysfunction
    • Environmental risks, including the presence of a firearm in the home
    • Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence)

    Suicide Warning Signs

    Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:

    • Suicidal threats in the form of direct ("I am going to kill myself") and indirect ("I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again") statements
    • Suicide notes and plans (including online postings)
    • Prior suicidal behavior
    • Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions)
    • Preoccupation with death
    • Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings

    What to Do

    Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:

    • Remain calm.
    • Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide (e.g., "Are you thinking of suicide?").
    • Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
    • Listen.
    • Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
    • Do not judge.
    • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
    • Remove means for self-harm.
    • Get help:  No one should ever agree to keep a youth's suicidal thoughts a secret and, instead, should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.

    The Role of the School in Suicide Prevention

    Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a caring and trusting student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and be watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis response team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified as being at risk for suicide. These individuals conduct a suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow-up counseling and support at school.

    Parental Notification and Participation 

    Even if a youth is judged to be at low risk for suicidal behavior, schools may ask parents to sign a documentation form to indicate that relevant information has been provided. Parental notifications must be documented. Additionally, parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment, as they often have information critical to making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviors. After a school notifies a parent of their child's risk for suicide and provides referral information, the responsibility falls upon the parent to seek mental health assistance for their child. Parents must:

    • Continue to take threats seriously:  Follow-through is important, even after the child calms down or informs the parent "they didn't mean it." Avoid assuming behavior is simply attention-seeking (but at the same time avoid reinforcing suicide threats, e.g., by allowing the student who has threatened suicide to drive because they were denied access to the car).
    • Access school supports:  If parents are uncomfortable with following through on referrals, they can give the school psychologist permission to contact the referral agency, provide referral information, and follow-up on the visit.
    • Maintain communication with the school:  After such an intervention, the school will also provide follow-up supports. Your communication will be crucial to ensuring that the school is the safest, most comfortable place for your child.

    Resiliency Factors

    The presence of resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors that lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at-risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth. These include:

    • Family support and cohesion, including good communication
    • Peer support and close social networks
    • School and community connectedness
    • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living
    • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution
    • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose
    • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources

    Adapted from: National Association of School Psychologists, 4340 East West Highway, Suite 402, Bethesda, MD 20814; (301) 657-0270, Fax (301) 657-0275; www.nasponline.org

    For an easy-to-read, downloadable summary of these recommendations, please click here.

     

    Read more at The SUSD Source

     

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  • August 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 8/1/2022
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  • Back to School; The Benefits of Building Routine

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 8/1/2022

    Kids getting for ready for schoolRoutines and predictability have been shown to have a calming effect during times of stress, so providing as much structure as possible to your students’ days is a good thing. That doesn’t mean outlining a strict schedule for them to follow.  Rather, a schedule provides students with a sense of security as they return to familiar back-to-school routines.

    • Put daily routines in place that include:
      • what time kids are expected to get up in the morning
      •  what time the work of the day is to begin and
      • some expectation for how much time will be spent on schoolwork or how much work will be accomplished during the course of the day. This will differ for kids of different ages. 

    • Schedule frequent work breaks. Find ways for your child to have a “calm” break.

    • Create a daily schedule for kids to follow, or, with older students, ask them to create a schedule (with your guidelines or parameters). Parents and kids respond to varying levels of structure when it comes to schedules.

     

    • Use the opportunity to check in with your child’s emotional side. When you establish structure, you can look for signs of shutdown or resistance. Some red flags to look out for in your children include a drastic change in mood and a lack of focus. Every child was impacted in some way or another during the past two years by the way normal routines changed. Remember that your child is not giving you a hard time they are having a hard time.

      • For kids who aren’t necessarily into talking about their feelings, find a safe activity for them, such as walking, helping with a small task, or folding clothes.  It can be helpful to share your own feelings.

      • For older children, you can ask them if they prefer to process or problem-solve. Processing looks like talking about their feelings and acknowledging that this is a difficult time.  Problem solving might look like collaborating with you on safe solutions for more connection. 

    The most important thing is to set aside time to talk to your child. You can help your child work through daily stressors by asking about their day and providing a safe and predictable home environment.

     

    Read more at The SUSD Source

     

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  • July 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 7/1/2022
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  • It's Time to Talk

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 7/1/2022

    Summer is a great time for having “the talk” regarding alcohol and drugs with your kids.

    Parent talking to a studentThis shouldn’t just be a one-time moment; rather, it should be a series of important conversations over the years.

    Years of prevention research has proven that kids who have an ongoing series of discussions with their parents (especially during the middle school years) have the strongest likelihood of making wise choices regarding substances for the rest of their lives.

    Too often, though, this gets overlooked. Parents get busy. Kids pull away, which is natural and normal adolescent development. They can also get sort of annoying during those teenage years, but we digress!

    More than anything, most parents and educators aren’t aware of this important fact: the more you initiate and engage kids in thoughtful discussions about the dangers of harmful substances, the better off they will be.

    In fact, research has shown that teens who consistently learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use drugs than those who do not.

    The 8 Must-Have Conversations to Have With Kids About Drugs & Alcohol

    Go to the Natural High Resource guide linked above for some ideas to spark the right conversations, and look for the right opportunities to start them.

    www.NaturalHigh.org is a great source of information for families and educators.  

     

    Read more at The SUSD Source

     

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  • June 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 6/1/2022
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  • Creating Safe Schools

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 6/1/2022

    Efforts to reduce school violence are most successful when multiple strategies are selected to be appropriate for each school’s needs, which include:

    • Creating school–community safety partnerships
      No school district or individual school alone can implement a comprehensive, multi-tiered school violence prevention program without engaging in a systematic planning process to understand its school safety challenges and opportunities. This is effectively done in concert with multiple stakeholders, including community partners.

    *SUSD collaborates with more than 30 community organizations to provide meaningful supports and resources to the students and families we serve.

    • Establishing comprehensive school crisis response plans

    *SUSD School Psychologists are trained in the PREPaRE model

    • Enhancing classroom and school climate
      Complementing climate-building strategies are those that promote robust social–emotional skills, which enhance positive, adaptive interpersonal relations among all students and educators (Durlak et al., 2011; Furlong, Froh, Muller, & Gonzalez, 2014).

    *SUSD’s Clinical Support Coordinator provides training and coaching to enhance school-wide and classroom climate. Sanford Harmony (Pre-K/5) and Botvin Lifeskills (grades 6-12) are used to teach and reinforce positive social skills.

    *All SUSD schools utilize a comprehensive support system to prevent problem behaviors and provide interventions and support as needed.

    • Using non-stigmatizing school violence prevention programs
      Attention to early behavioral and emotional distress signals from students will help to ensure that students are provided prevention and support services as early in their school careers as possible. Such efforts will ensure that students get help prior to the need for extreme disciplinary responses. Although research shows that the vast majority of student threats of school violence do not result in actual violence, they nonetheless provide opportunities to explore, better understand, and respond to any special needs of the students making the threat and the students being threatened. Each such threat needs to be reviewed and threat-response efforts at school should be based on research-validated procedures (Cornell & Allen, 2011).

    *SUSD utilizes the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guideline (CSTAG) approach to school threat assessment. SUSD’s Director of Support Services is one of 13 threat assessment trainers in Arizona.

    • Promoting antiviolence initiatives that include prevention programs for all students
      At the most general level, interventions include school-wide violence prevention programs, particularly those that address bullying, which is the most pervasive school safety challenge (Felix, Greif Green, & Sharkey, 2014; Ttofi & Farrington, 2012). These activities encourage all students to experience positive emotional development and to use nonviolent means to resolve their personal conflicts.

    *SUSD encourages the implementation of school-wide PBIS, No Place for Hate , and bullying prevention strategies, such as Stop, Walk, and Talk .

    • Intervening with students who experience significant school behavioral adjustment problems
      Schools must also make efforts to modify the behavior of students who have engaged in or are at risk of engaging in violent behavior. Students who are experiencing social and/or psychological distress and the complex problems they face require the coordination of interventions across school and community agencies. Schools alone cannot address the myriad needs of these students.

    *School social workers, counselors, prevention specialists, and school psychologists are trained to implement evidence-based interventions to support the social-emotional, mental health, and behavioral health needs of our students. SUSD also collaborates with more than 30 community organizations to provide meaningful supports and resources to the students and families we serve.

    Resources:

    National Association of School Psychologists Statement on School Violence

    Pyramid of School Safety Supports

    Summer Newsletter 2022

    Talking to Children About Violence

     

    Read more at The SUSD Source

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  • May 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 5/1/2022

    May is Mental Health Awareness Month

    Mental Health Awareness Month is a great time to raise awareness of those living with mental or behavioral health issues and help reduce the stigma attached to having mental health issues.

    One in six U.S. youth aged 6-17 experience a mental health disorder each year, and half of all mental health conditions begin by age 14. Attention-deficit/hyperactivityMental Health Awareness Month disorder (ADHD), behavior problems, anxiety, and depression are the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children. Yet, only about half of youth with mental health conditions received any kind of treatment in the past year.

    Undiagnosed, untreated or inadequately treated mental illnesses can significantly interfere with a student’s ability to learn, grow and develop. Since children spend much of their productive time in educational settings, schools offer a unique opportunity for early identification, prevention and interventions that serve students where they already are.

    School-based mental health services are delivered by trained mental health professionals who are employed by schools, such as school psychologists, school counselors, school social workers and school nurses. Children and youth with more serious mental health needs may require school-linked mental health services that connect youth and families to more intensive resources in the community.

    Did you know:

    • Many mental health conditions first appear in youth and young adults, with 50% of all conditions beginning by age 14 and 75% by age 24.
    • Early treatment is effective and can help young people stay in school and on track to achieving their life goals. In fact, the earlier the treatment, the better the outcomes and lower the costs.
    • Delays in treatment lead to worsened conditions that are harder — and costlier — to treat.
    • For people between the ages of 15-40 experiencing symptoms of psychosis, there is an average delay of 74 weeks (nearly 1.5 years) before getting treatment.
    • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-34.
    • Schools can play an important role in helping children and youth get help early. School staff — and students — can learn to identify the warning signs of an emerging mental health condition and how to connect someone to care.
    • Schools also play a vital role in providing or connecting children, youth and families to services. School-based mental health services bring trained mental health professionals into schools and school-linked mental health services connect youth and families to more intensive resources in the community.
    • School-based and school-linked mental health services reduce barriers to youth and families getting needed treatment and supports, especially for communities of color and other underserved communities.
    • When we invest in children’s mental health to make sure they can get the right care at the right time, we improve the lives of children, youth and families — and our communities.

    Resources:

    Adapted from:“Mental Health in Schools,” NAMI Public Policy Position, Handouts for Families and Educators, NAMI.

    Read more at The SUSD Source

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  • April 2022

    Posted by SUSD Communications on 4/1/2022

    12th Annual Mental Health in the Schools Networking Event

    Mental Health Networking EventSUSD Student Support Services recently hosted its 12th Annual Mental Health in the Schools Networking Event. We are incredibly grateful for the 35 community and social service agencies that came to share information and resources about the services they provide. District staff collaborated, communicated and made valuable connections with community partners. 

    Families can learn more about the participating agencies here.

    Additional links to school and community resources can be found here.

     

     

     

    Mental Health Networking EventMental Health Networking Event

     

    Read more at The SUSD Source

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