The Role of Schools In Suicide Prevention

Aug 14, 2019

A new law requires schools in New Hampshire impliment suicide prevention policies, which include prevention training for school staff.   The measure comes amid concern about New Hampshire's high youth suicide rate.  We find out how schools are preparing, and what some are already doing, and discuss the value this training brings to school staff and students. 

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text 741741. Find more information for teens and young adults about warning signs and what to do. 

Resources:

NAMI NH has a confidential information & resource hotline, 1-800-242-6264, which will return your call within 48 business hours. It is designed to help families and individuals affected by mental illness/emotional disorders find answers to questions and access to support. (This is not a hotline or crisis service).

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center also has information about services available throughout New Hampshire. 

From NAMI, these are warning signs a child or teen might be experiencing mental health challenges (you can find more information here):

Curious about how to discuss suicide and mental health in a sensitive and responsible way? ReportingOnSuicide.org has guidelines for thoughtful reporting. 

Find more information about the Connect Program, which trains professionals and communities in suicide prevention.

The Bureau of Student Wellness with the N.H. Department of Education has information about training and professional development for programs for student wellness, including mental health. 

The SOS School Program also has in-classroom training for students and educators. 

Guests:

  • Julie Donovan -  Prevention specialist at Pinkerton Academy in Derry.
  • Candice Porter - Executive director of Connor's Climb Foundation, which provides education and resources for youth suicide prevention. She also serves on the state Suicide Prevention Council.
  • Chief Margaret Lougee - Chief of Police in Bow, and former school resource officer in Bow. 

Transcript:

This is a computer-generated transcript, and may contain errors. 

Producer's note: We have one point of correction embedded in this transcript, regarding the law for mandated reporting. You can find it within the transcript, and at the bottom of this page. 

Laura Knoy:
From New Hampshire Public Radio, I'm Laura Knoy and this is The Exchange.

A law signed two weeks ago directs New Hampshire public schools to take action against a rising problem. Youth suicide. Many districts already have suicide prevention policies in place. Now the law says all of them must do so over the next academic year and that all school staff from the classroom to the lunchroom need to participate in annual training on this topic today in exchange. Suicide prevention in our schools. We find out how districts are preparing to comply with this law and what many are already doing. And let's hear from you. We welcome your questions and comments.

Laura Knoy:
We have three guests in studio. Chief Margaret Lougee is here. She's chief of the Bow Police Department, a former school resource officer in the district where she became a suicide prevention trainer. Bow, by the way, implemented a suicide awareness and prevention program back in 2009. And Chief Lougee, it's really nice to meet you. Thank you for being here.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
You're welcome.

Laura Knoy:
Thank you. Also with us, Julie Donovan, former school counselor, current prevention specialist at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, which has implemented a suicide awareness and prevention program. Pinkerton is an independent high school serving public school students from six communities in southern New Hampshire. And Julie, welcome. You were doing a lot of work on this. I appreciate your time.

Julie Donovan:
Thank you for having me.

Laura Knoy:
And also with us, Candice Porter, executive director of the Connor's Climb Foundation, which provides education and collaboration for youth suicide prevention, including the s.o.s program that's signs of suicide. Candice also serves on the state's Suicide Prevention Council. And Candice, thank you for coming in. I really appreciate it.

Candice Porter:
Thank you so much for having us.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Candice, to you first, but everybody, what's happening with our young people that led to this law?

Well, it's not only what's going on with our young adults, not only in New Hampshire, but across the country, that suicide is the second leading cause of death for our youngsters. And it's more of an acknowledgment of what can we be doing as a state, as a community, as a network of support to actually address the issue. And for many years, we've been begging and pleading for folks to be taking suicide serious and just like any other physical health issue. Mental health is a treatable illness. And we've been really trying to get our schools, our communities and our state to take it seriously and address it. So this bill is one of many that are across the country.

Candice Porter:
And it's a first step forward for New Hampshire to say we're going to actually treat this the way that we need to.

Laura Knoy:
Talk a little bit more about the people, candidates who really promoted this bill and help make it become law. A lot of people the signing ceremony said this is a long time coming. This did not come out of nowhere.

Candice Porter:
It did not. We worked pretty hard in 2014 and had limited success. So this last effort really was a collaboration. It was many entities coming together. It was the State Suicide Prevention Council NAMI, New Hampshire, which has been a key role. Also, Connor's Climb foundation. Tara Ball, our founder. This is something she really pushed long and hard for. And along with other family members and just the Department of Education coming together and saying, OK, now is the time we're going to actually do this and having it be bipartisan was key. So last time we put it forward, it was a we went through the house how he first introduced the bill. This time it came from the Senate. And we had a really hurdle both avenues and say, you know, we need to do this. This is going to actually happen and who's going to be behind us when it happens? So this is part of our conversation today that, you know, there's a lot of question marks out there, but a lot of us are coming together saying, what are we doing? Well, that works and how can we expand on that?

Laura Knoy:
Sure. And we'll definitely talk about what this law entails, what districts that don't have these policies can learn from the many districts that already do. Just really quickly, Candice, remind us of the founder of your organization, Connor's Climb Foundation. She was one of the many parents who really have been promoting this for a long time.

Candice Porter:
Correct. So terrible. She lost her son, Connor. Today is actually his birthday. He would have been 22 years old. So I'm saying this for Tara. She took her her story and said, I want to do something about it. And the town of Exeter is where she was residing and just started questioning like what else could have been in place? What else can we be doing? And decided rather than being angry or acting in despair, that she wanted to do something to kind of rally and say, what can we do? So that my tragedy can be preventable for anybody else.

Laura Knoy:
And a lot of parents, sadly, with similar stories who got together and promoted this legislation. Julie, what are you seeing in your own school or in your own community in terms of the concern about suicide among young people or the conversation around this?

Julie Donovan:
I think as far as teenagers go, I have seen a rise in mental health issues in students having more difficulty dealing with anxiety. We have a decrease in access to mental health care in our state. So when we have a student in crisis, a lot of times the school is supporting that student until that student can, you know, get to a mental health center. So that gap is becoming more while students needs are increasing in mental health. So it's a real challenge for schools because they're not designed, you know, to do that. But we're finding we have to do it.

Julie Donovan:
And as far as the training goes, I've been doing the training through NAMI, the Connect program going into my eighth year. It's becoming more supported by the school. And I'm really, really happy that Governor Sununu passed the bill because schools are now going to have to be accountable. And schools are really in a unique position more than anybody, more even more than a mental health center that we have access to the students six and a half hours a day. So it really places staff in a really nice position to be able to help students. One of the great things that we've we finally got to at Pinkerton last year and a student of mine is e-mailing in is now we have students presenting in the classroom. And last year, last school year, we were recognized by Governor Sununu, whose office, the peer trainers, and they presented 72 lessons in the classroom to eight hundred students and health classes for the sophomore class.

Laura Knoy:
Why do you suppose young people in New Hampshire are feeling more anxiety, perhaps depression that is leading to suicide? It's so sad.

Julie Donovan:
I think. It's it's not, like Candice said, it's not just New Hampshire. This is nationwide, a loosely I think just that the coping skills are less. I think that there's less availability to treatment. I think social media has played a role in this. And kids just everything's accessible 24/7. You know, parents aren't educated. That's a that's a whole other issue. But I just think we're not we're not talking about it. And I think talking about suicide, that's suicide prevention. That's the first step in preventing suicide. So we need to talk about it. I just think our society is changing and there's more anxiety across the board with adults, too, with what's happening in our world. Most of the kids now that are, you know, the I forget the class. We're going into, what, 20, 22, these kids have grown up with school shootings. They literally have been in school with school shootings.

Laura Knoy:
The Columbine Generation.

Julie Donovan:
Their entire school career.

Laura Knoy:
Well, I'm talking about the numbers. Here's some CDC numbers just to put this in context for 2017 data. Suicides among those aged 15 to 34. So it's a big group. But seventeen point five per 100000. So that's the rate in New Hampshire. So seventeen point five nationally, thirteen point one. So we do have this higher rate in the Granite State, although you're all right. Of course, it's a national problem as well. Chief Lougee, I'd love to hear from you, too. Just what are you seeing in the both schools in the community of Bow in terms of concerns around youth suicide?

Chief Margaret Lougee:
Thanks for the question. The biggest thing that we're seeing is people are raising the red flag throughout all the trainings that we've had with Connect Nami.

Laura Knoy:
And by the way, I'm sorry to interrupt, NAMI has come up a couple times. And we should just tell people remind people what that is.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
Yes. National Alliance for mental illness, which is a great organization that comes out and trains people, they train students, they train adults. I went through the train the trainer with them so I can teach that same connect training. The resiliency in kids is low. I think resiliency in some of the parents are low when you hit that speed bump. You got to go around it. Stop hitting the seems to be about raise that red flag when you need some help. There's so many people out there in the both community I want to talk about so many people care. So many people want to take care of everybody, not just the students. And you got to be able to reach out to us. We care about you and and we can help you through whatever that speed bump is. But I think the resiliency, knowing that life is gonna be okay if you get some help and talk to somebody and and, you know, with the with Bow, we have social workers, we have psychologists, we have guidance counselors. They're out there for you. And, you know, especially the police department.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
We're here for everybody.

Laura Knoy:
Tell us a little bit. Chief Lougee, please, how Bow came to invest in suicide prevention training in 2009.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
A decade ago, 10 years ago, we had a suicide of an eighth grader, Dalton, in that that awoke the community of Bow, not just the school district, but the entire community. Pauline LaLiberte was a great supporter of that. She was our social worker at the time in NAMI, came in, gave us the training that we needed, trained coaches, trained the lunch ladies, the custodians, the staff, trained the community fire department, police department. And we set up some protocols, some guidelines during school after school hours on what to do if somebody is talking about hurting themselves. And we've continued that throughout. We're still working on getting everybody trained.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
The tricky part is the new teachers coming in, the new staff, the volunteers, you know, people that not necessarily know about our past. Our school resource officer, you know, is working with the response teams, which is huge for schools or schools don't have response teams. They need to get the response teams that work with the safety teams because a threat could be right now. So you need to bring those threat assessment teams together and work as a coalition to save somebody's life.

Laura Knoy:
What's eye opening for new people? Anybody can answer this. Maybe you Candice. First, what's eye opening for new people who haven't gone through this training? You know, what have people said to you about, wow, I never thought about that before. I need to look for that.

Candice Porter:
I think the eye opening thing is normalizing the conversation, one that you can talk about it. You know, it's timing. My my daughter, the on the swim team in Bedford, New Hampshire. And I was tired of being talking to another parent about what I do, you know, because that comes up in contacts and actually just approaching the conversation. And day to day is something that alone is eye opening for other folks. So they're like, what do you do? Well, I run a amazing nonprofit that does suicide prevention. Why do you do that? Well, did you know suicide is the second leading cause of death for our children?

Laura Knoy:
Wow. I bet you get a lot of. Gee, I didn't know that from people.

Candice Porter:
Did not know that. So that's eye opening alone. And like we talked about just saying, this is an approachable subject and it's something that needs to be talked about and it's preventable. And really understanding that it's a complex issue and it's a multifactorial combination of things going on. There's no recipe, there's no right or wrong way to actually address this issue. But just actually d stigmatizing the conversation as a key step. So something Connor's Climb does in addition to providing the s.o.s. Signs of suicide in program, which is evidence based. The key to what we're trying to do is teach the kids how to look out for each other and to acknowledge care and tell a trusted adult when they're worried about themselves or a friend.

Candice Porter:
And a message that I like to say is some secrets should be shared. You know, they're not going to tell us everything, but it's having that talk with our children, saying there are some things you need to tell. And then for the adults, what's our role? Because where they're trusted adults and what do we do when we're worried about someone we care about? And it's the same as CPR. You know, what do you do? And actually putting that roadmap in place is so important. So the eye opening is one normalizing the conversation is very eye opening. You know, when we all all of us here, we drink the Kool-Aid. But realizing that's not the norm. So kind of starting from ground zero and starting the dialogue. And I think what Pinkerton that's doing is, you know, it's not a one and done. And we there's nine months that are gonna be in place for schools to actually step back, reflect and say, OK, what are we doing?

Candice Porter:
Because we're we're all doing stuff that's really good. It's amazing. How do we actually acknowledge that? And then what what gaps are still there and how do we fill those gaps? And we're all coming together, meaning Connor's Climb NAMI, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. We're all here to say we can support you.

Laura Knoy:
Well, that CPR analogy is really interesting and we might pick up on that in just a moment. I want to remind our listeners, too, that you can join us today in The Exchange. We're looking at a brand new law aimed at suicide prevention in New Hampshire schools. We're finding out what this law attempts to do, how it might roll out over the next nine months. And by the way, there are a lot of schools that are already doing this. So we'll find out what they are doing, what districts that don't have suicide prevention in place might learn from those that do.

Laura Knoy:
So the law talks about training adults. But all of you have mentioned the role of young people in this. And I want to read an e-mail from Eve who says she's going to be a senior at Pinkerton Academy. So one of your students, Julie Eve, says, I'm currently involved in suicide prevention training at my school when I'm in front of my peers, educating them on signs, symptoms and what to do. I truly believe I'm making a difference. It may save someone's life one day, and that is immeasurable. It is unfortunate. So many feel they have to deal with suicide and suicidal thoughts alone. And Eve says by being part of this program, I hope to open the dialogue to show that no one is ever alone and that it can get better. Eve says, I hope everyone listening can take some time to focus on themselves and how they are doing, how the people around them are doing. She says it is OK to not be OK. But there was always a solution other than suicide. Remember that? A powerful email from Eve Julie. Can you talk about the role of students in this?

Julie Donovan:
Yes. So after we had all our staff trained and it's taken quite a few years because of people leaving and new staff coming, and now the school has all new staff trained before they even go into the classroom. I see. So next Monday, I'll be training new staff before they even step in the classroom. They'll know what to do. They'll know what to look for and they'll know who to connect the student to. So that's the first important thing. So all staff needed to be trained before we could train students.

Julie Donovan:
Now that students are trained, we know research has shown that students listen to students. They don't want to hear from adults because as adolescents, of course, they don't think we know anything. So enough, right. So they want to hear from their peers. And after seeing their, you know, these students presenting in class, these kids also see them passing on campus. These kids are now identified as ambassadors in the school. And Eve actually had a brilliant idea of putting a ribbon on your backpack. We haven't decided the color yet. The kids will decide to identify those kids in the school. That kid has that ribbon. That's a student you can go to. So, I mean, the kids are coming up with this stuff, too. So it's just that is where I wanted to go and that's where we're at.

Julie Donovan:
And that's to me, is the best prevention that you can have.

Laura Knoy:
It's a lot more to talk about after a short break. And we'll start taking your comments and questions. Coming up, we'll get into some of the specifics of this new law, what the training might look like. Some of. Concerns that have come up around it all, that's coming up. Stay with us. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange. I'm Laura Knoy. Today, suicide prevention in New Hampshire schools. A new law signed two weeks ago hopes to tackle this problem and prevent suicides among Granite State young people. It calls for mandatory staff training, district wide policies. We're talking about how schools are preparing for these new requirements and what many are already doing, by the way. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, here's the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 800 2 7 3 8 2 5 5. Or you can text home, That's h o m e to this number. 7 4 1 7 4 1. Lots of other resources around suicide of mental health on our Web site. Check it out there. If you're driving on the highway, didn't catch that phone number, but we have made sure to put a lot of resources there for you.

Laura Knoy:
Our guest for the hour are Julie Donovan, former school counselor, current prevention specialist at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. Also Candice Porter, executive director of the Connor's Claim Foundation, which provides education for youth suicide prevention. Candice is also in the State's Suicide Prevention Council. And also with us, Chief Margaret Lougee, chief of the Bow Police Department, former school resource officer, where she became a suicide prevention trainer. And before we go to the phones, Chief Lougee, I wanted to ask you how the way we talk about suicide has changed. Again, you've been doing this work for at least a decade, language reporting, talking to students. It seems to me that a lot has changed.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
Definitely has. Safe messaging is huge when you're dealing with suicide. You've got to be careful what you say, how you say it. And always. And I appreciate you giving out the. The suicide prevention lifeline that that's so important when you're talking about it. Have the resources available for you and anybody can call these numbers taxis numbers. And it's really important to to have safe messaging. What is safe messaging basically going to not allow or not show you how to die by suicide? A lot of people say commit suicide. Those are those aren't used anymore if you commit a sin.

Laura Knoy:
Suicide is a sign of, you know, desperation.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
And then it's it's a mental health problem that can be solved. And if you word things properly, if you give them the resources, let them know that you're free to talk to them about it. It opens up different avenues for you. But you've got to be careful in what you say, how you say it. And that's what the training does for you with the school districts. If if they can just get some safe messaging in, people are going to trust them more people are going to talk to them more. And that's all part of the training. And they pretty much hit that first day and you start rolling.

Laura Knoy:
Well, speaking of the training, as I understand and correct me if I'm wrong, this new law requires pretty much everybody in the school to be trained. So, Julie, you mentioned you trained teachers before they go into the classroom, but under this law. Right. Everybody needs to be trained. Bus drivers, everyone.

Julie Donovan:
Yes. So that's going to be interesting how the schools are going to roll that out, because we know that schools are already, you know, taxed with the things they need to do. But of course, to me, this is the most important issue, because that's life and death. And the reason to train those people is because kids talk on the bus. Kids are talking in line in front of the lunch, ladies, the janitors in the bathroom. That janitor may have a connection with that student that they see every day after school before practice, and they know each other. So that's why it's important into the chief's point. It's really important about safe messaging, because we don't want to sensationalize suicide. It's not something that should be sensationalized. We know movies have done it. You know, news, not obviously not this news, but you know it. You know, it's just it's just really important. You know, we know that talking about it will never give somebody the idea and put it in their head. But we also want to be respectful to loss survivors, you know, and that's really important, too, because that, you know, and contagion, too, is another reason for safe messaging. So. But people don't know you don't know what you don't know. And that's why it's important to let everybody know and not be judged.

Laura Knoy:
No. But just say, you know, that's not really helpful. Right? That. Exactly. Try this way.

Julie Donovan:
Exactly.

Laura Knoy:
just remind us what's contagion?

Julie Donovan:
So contagion is would be a way that people would talk, that other people at risk may raise their risk. So we want to always be mindful that I know when I do a training, I'm always mindful there's always somebody in the room that's been impacted by suicide. And I just don't think we think of that. It's not something people will say, oh, by the way, you know, I lost my spouse, so I lost my son because there's a lot of stigma. I mean, I know your organization is great at reducing the stigma, but so contagion is unsafe ways to talk about it that increase the risk in people that are at risk already.

Laura Knoy:
What do you think, Candice? What's the best advice you can give for people talking about suicide? One or two really important things to keep in mind, especially when talking to children or young adults. I think Julie and the chief are right. People sometimes nervous to approach this topic with young people because they don't want them to get the wrong idea.

Candice Porter:
Correct. And I think when we talked about just introducing the idea to the larger community of the school district, it's always important to acknowledge the issue on its own and really taking the time to say, you know, you have to help out yourself before you can help others. And acknowledging that most likely everyone in this district has been impacted in some way or form. And that's OK. And we're here for supports. So this bill does touch directly on how we're supporting our students. But in another way, I think it's also how are we supporting our caregivers of our children and giving them this lifesaving information is going to actually help themselves. So they're helping others even more importantly. So when you talk about, you know, how are we going to address this with our youngsters? We do know that the evidence is behind direct suicide prevention programming on the middle and high school level. So the Connect program, the s.o.s, signs a suicide that we promote, which is a peer to peer. It's really addressing. Students had acknowledged care, tell if they're worried about themselves or a friend. We know it works.

There's been no iatrogenic effects, meaning harmful negative effects of actually talking about suicide. And we actually know that talking about suicide is a key way to prevent suicide. And when we think about our younger kids, you know, when we're talking about elementary schools and we're all looking at each other and I know a lot of elementary schools out there are saying, how are we going to address this issue and where we have to because of the data after you and in the bill, it's students.

Candice Porter:
And that's really vague. So what we're doing and trying to collaborate with folks is having schools and reflect and say, well, what are they doing? Because on the elementary level, they're doing a ton of pro social emotional well-being, resiliency, programming. That is all protective factors. When we look at this multifactorial issue that we're dealing with and having schools actually embrace what they are doing. And it might not be a straight suicide prevention program, but it's through the lens of awareness, prevention, resiliency. But the same time, teaching the elementary faculty the basic one to one. What is suicide, how to talk about it, what you can do. Everybody needs that information because those children will carry on and life changes. The issues that they're dealing with grow more complex. And that's why we're seeing and it is there's a trickle down effect going on. And that's a challenge. As far as you know, we have fifth graders coming forward saying they're struggling, saying the word suicide. What do we do? When do we start talking to our children about suicide? It's not an easy issue and there's no right or wrong way to do it.

Laura Knoy:
Well, in Kansas, just for some specifics on the law, so it says just to clarify, it says staff needs to get trained on this. It's not that there's going to be suicide prevention programs for third graders or fifth graders.

Candice Porter:
It does say students also students also.

Laura Knoy:
OK. So that's what you're referring to. Are elementary school teachers are saying, well, how do I deal with this with a littlest kids.

Candice Porter:
And it's very vague. It says students. So this is a point where I'm saying the district's how are you addressing this directly with students? Because that is in the law. It's not saying it has to be on the elementary level, but it's in there. So it's I think this is an opportunity for districts to say, how are we saying we're addressing it? It's a little vague right now.

Laura Knoy:
Is that OK with you so that they can address it the way that they feel is appropriate, or would you like to see some more specific?

Candice Porter:
I think that's where I keep saying collaboration because that's key. And there's gonna have to be a consensus saying, you know, that at the elementary level, can we agree that this is appropriate at the middle school, in the high school level?

Candice Porter:
We know there's hard science behind programs that work. So can we agree that there should be some combination of really strong programs in effect, along with the reflection of the districts actually doing the policy, the planning on how they address the issue of a lot more questions for all of you.

Laura Knoy:
But I want and by our listeners again to join us. Today, we're looking at a new law signed just two weeks ago by the governor concerning suicide prevention in New Hampshire. Schools were finding out what it's going to entail. And we'd love your questions and comments. So Marin wrote in. She says she's twelve years old. She lives in Bedford. And she says, Dear Candice. So this is for you, Candice Porter. I really think that this program is going to help so many people. I know that suicide is a big thing and I would really like to promote the education in my school. Thank you for everything you do. Marin, thank you for writing in.

Laura Knoy:
That's a very grown up. But also perhaps. Julie, correct me if I'm wrong. A hefty I want to say burden, but I know no other word to choose. It's a hefty thing for a young person like Marin to tackle.

Julie Donovan:
Yes, I agree. And what we have found and I'm sure you know, the other people here on the panel can agree is that students go to each other, they go to their peers. And that's why it's so important that staff know what to do in order to support students, because students are going to each other. And it is a it is a big burden. That's that's a huge issue that even adults don't deal with on their own mental health staff, consult with their with, you know, other mental health staff and psychiatrist. So this is not an issue that anybody should deal with alone, especially a child. Go ahead. Djibouti.

Julie Donovan:
And I think the biggest thing is with the training that they receive is they will the students will learn to talk to their trusted adult about what they're hearing from a student. So it's not the student isn't going to solve the other students problem. So, you know, they're not getting students. They're behaving mental health counselors. They're taking it off their shoulders, putting it on that trusted adult. And we always say they have three trusted adults until one and two maybe not be there that day. So I have three trusted adults. Take it off your shoulder, put it onto that adult, and then we'll get that other student some help.

Laura Knoy:
Do Julie staff, teachers. Are some of them feeling nervous that now I'm supposed to be aware of these signs? What if there is a suicide attempt among one of my students? Now I'm gonna feel. I mean, I'll feel terrible no matter what. But now I'm going to feel doubly terrible because I was trained and I should have known so that a lot of pressure for people.

Julie Donovan:
I don't think it should be pressure, because I believe if you're working with students and you're in that role, you need to be able to handle that. So, you know, I do think people are nervous, but I think after the training, they know what they need to do and how to connect the students. So they shouldn't be nervous. But they do have a heightened awareness and it is what it is. And, you know, that's what it is you work with. You work with children like a mandated reporter. This is similar. I mean, your we need to keep these kids safe. We have them six and a half hours a day, 186 days a year. It's our job to do that. You are jumping ahead.

Candice Porter:
Yeah. Well, the mandated reporting is exactly what I was going to touch on that. You know, that's so normalized now. So it's also just tying this in that that's a key piece to your role. You're a mandated reporter if you're within the realm of serving students, being an educator, being a frontline staff. So this is a key piece to that recipe is now you have to understand and the other thing, you know, when we do the trainings, knowledge is power. So I think that's so important to talk about when we're actually having the conversation with faculty and when they actually feel like that the school, the district is taking the time to invest in having the conversation. Everybody's empowered. And it's not saying you did something wrong. And this is why you're wrong. It's saying the next time you see something, there's a better way you can approach it. And we're taking the time to say, and this is how you can do it. And it's I mean, I did a training and Coach Brown for the entire school. Every person was there. And it was amazing.

Candice Porter:
And the dialogue that came after it and just the appreciation from the district that, you know, this is something they're investing in to actually do. And then the key piece that we're talking about with the youth is trust that adults. And part of what the s.o.s program does similar to Connect is, you know, you need to know who's a trusted adult within the school and outside the school. And if you can't name someone, we're worried about you. And we just want to talk about how can we help you? What is going on? Who can be your trusted adult? And at the same time telling the adults, you are a trusted adult. And that's amazing. The kids, they love you. And this is what you need to know if you're worried about them and the coaches peace we trust on a little bit. But that's another thing that we're really trying to take on, that, you know, so many of our kids across the state, sports are amazing.

Candice Porter:
But really teaching the kids how to love each other on and off the field. And the coaches that are out there, they might not be direct educators, but giving them that information that these kids this is your own community. It might not be within the walls of a school, but they're really you're creating a community on your own. And what's your role as a trusted adult.

Laura Knoy:
Chief, did you want to jump in and point out that this mandated reporting?

Chief Margaret Lougee:
I just want people to know that all of us are mandated reporters. It doesn't have to be just in the schools, not just the police department. Every parent, everybody in society is a mandated reporter. And if you're seeing something, you need to report it.*

*Chief Lougee contacted us after the show to clarify that mandated reporting applies specifically to adult and/or child abuse and neglect. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, "any person who has reason to suspect that a person is being abused or neglected must make a report to BEAS or DCYF, respectively."

Laura Knoy:
So here's the scenario. Then you have this great program in Bow or Pinkerton or wherever everyone's on board and a child comes forward and says, yes, I'm having suicidal thoughts. Please help me. School counselor says, yes, thank you for coming.

Laura Knoy:
And then as we know, there's not a lot of mental health practitioners for young people is not a lot of mental health practitioners anyway. There's a huge shortage of mental health professionals in this state, especially for children. So I'm not sure who wants to take this one on. But that's the that's the missing piece, isn't it? You can do the best job possible in Pinkerton, Julie, but once you identify that child and bravo for, you know, that person coming forward, right. Then what do you do? So one plus, it's expensive.

Julie Donovan:
Well, once we identify a student, our role in the school would be to obviously connect with the parent. I think we should be giving the parent some education on warning signs, risk factors, because what I have found is sometimes parents no fault of their own. You don't know what you don't know may think, oh, my son's in my room. He just doesn't want to spend time. And that's kind of a normal teenage behavior. So I think sometimes, you know, weeding out what's normal and wait, what may not be normal can be difficult for families. So they need an education. So when we call a family member to come in and get their child, we. We do that, and at the same time, we actually try to make an appointment with our local mental health center. One of the things I wanted to mention, it may not be very popular, but I'm gonna say it anyways. I've had this experience as I think pediatricians need to really step up to the plate. I've had some not so great contacts and I've had great contacts to where a patient nutrition actually called me back and was upset that the student went to the pediatrician for a mental health assessment. And my response to that pediatrician was, well, you're a doctor, you've been trained in mental health, you've done a rotation and you have you're an M.D. So you know, you're part of that. So I think they need to step up to the plate, too. It takes a village. The schools are limited. But I do think after connecting and educating the parent, we really also try to connect to a mental health practitioner in the E.R., the pediatrician, E.R. and mental health is really that's our resource.

Laura Knoy:
Okay. Lots more questions after a short break and more of your e-mails and calls. More on what this new suicide prevention law for New Hampshire schools will look like. Just a moment. This is The Exchange on NHPR.

Laura Knoy:
This is The Exchange I'm Laura Knoy. Monday on our show, we conclude our summer series on education with a look with a look at the program known as Learn Everywhere. Commissioner Frank Edelblut will be with us. So be sure to join us for that Monday morning live at 9:00 this hour. Expanding suicide prevention programs in our schools. A new law mandates, training and policies. We're learning more. And we've been hearing from you. We've put lots of resources about suicide and mental health, including the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. That's 1 800 2 7 3 8 2 5 5. And Julie Donovan, Candice Porter, Chief Lougee, let's go right back to our listeners.

Laura Knoy:
And Carissa writes, How do practices, structures and cultures in school contribute to depression, anxiety? Quick examples. Krista says, Dress up days, twin days, letter grading systems, schedules that move kids every 45 minutes, regardless if they've understood the lesson. Carissa, thank you so much. Julia sighing I'm going to take you.

Julie Donovan:
Ok. Sorry about the sigh. I think this speaks to the Chief's What she said about, you know, social, emotional and resilience. You know, students in a high school, you do change classes every 45 minutes. There is support staff there to always support students. You have school counselors. You have psychologists. We have social workers. So we want to support kids. But I also think we we need to help build resilience and part of the the state's new initiative, the social, emotional learning, as to really get student wellness into the classroom and help kids with resilience.

Laura Knoy:
Some of those earlier grade efforts that. Yeah. Candice mentioned that are going on. And another term that's come up a lot in our conversation today that just want to clarify and chiefly, Jill, go to you. The idea of a mandated reporter. So when we talk about sexual assault and there's been a lot of conversation about that, unfortunately, in terms of both public and private schools, you know, we all know what a mandate reporter is, but what's a mandated reporter when it comes to youth suicide prevention?

Chief Margaret Lougee:
The biggest thing with mandating reporting is that if you're hearing somebody is going to hurt themselves, hurt others, you're mandated to report that even if it is a call to the police department saying, this is what I heard. We'll investigate it. We may do something. We may not. And then sometimes will notify DCYF about what needs to be done. But if your hearing that somebody is going to hurt themselves or hurt others or there's a rumor out there about it, you've got to again get it off your shoulders, put it on someone else's shoulders, put it on the professionals and let them take care of that. So everyone has to do that in the school, in the school setting. Yeah. And in the community. And what happens if you don't I mean, you just said there are laws. You know, today's talking about laws. There's laws for mandated reporting, you know.*

*Chief Lougee contacted us after the show to clarify that mandated reporting applies specifically to adult and/or child abuse and neglect. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, "any person who has reason to suspect that a person is being abused or neglected must make a report to BEAS or DCYF, respectively."

Laura Knoy:
Let's go back to our listeners. And Sharon writes, The NAMI Connect community based suicide prevention training is eye opening and is a cost effective way to train all school staff. Our children are already familiar with suicide as parents and community members. We want to be there for them to provide the support and guidance they need. Sharon says learning more about suicide prevention gives us the vocabulary and the concepts we need for good communications. Open communications about this difficult subject is d stigmatizing. Removing the stigma helps us address the root problem. Sharon, thank you so much for the e-mail. And what do you think about what she says?

Laura Knoy:
Candice this kind of reflects some of the ideas that you brought forward before where you tell people, I work on suicide prevention for young people. People go, wow.

Laura Knoy:
So it's the destigmatization.

Candice Porter:
And normalizing the conversation and really having this be something that schools can put their hands on, feel comfortable with. And actually in grade, just like we're doing bullying prevention. Any other social emotional wellness programming that this can become just as one or one as the other work that we're doing. And I do want to plug this. The statewide Suicide Prevention Council, we meet on the fourth Monday of every month from 10 to noon, and that information will be on the Web site. That's through the resources we're putting out there and that's open to the public. So there is a way for folks to come and meet other experts in the field across the state and network and see how they can bring resources to their school. And I think a bottom line message that we're trying to promote that help is available and there's no right or wrong way to how we're going to address this bill. But there are people that are going to show up, just like we all showed up for this conversation this morning. We are here to help and make this something that can actually be implemented and in a thoughtful and safe evidence based way.

Laura Knoy:
So I think it was you earlier, Julie, somebody said you don't know what you don't know. So sometimes parents are surprised when the school calls them and says, hey, your child confided in me that he or she is having suicidal thoughts.

Laura Knoy:
Here's my question. I'm not quite sure how to frame and I going to throw it at you, can't it? But anybody jump in. Often children don't want to share with friends, trusted adults, guidance counselors, even their favorite teacher or coach. I don't have daughters. I have sons.

Laura Knoy:
And I can tell you that boys seem to have a hard time saying they have a problem. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm fine.

Laura Knoy:
And so I just wonder how this new law is going to work with that.

Candice Porter:
Well, I think for the parents understand that the school has to address these issues and they want to because like Julie mentioned, it takes a village and we're caring for your whole child. So it's the whole child approach. And just like if they get physically hurt on the grounds of a school, their mental health is going to really impair their ability to learn. And that's why they're at school. So I think for the districts in our state to actually inform parents that this is a subject that we're addressing and it's a key piece to ensuring that your child is going to have academic success. That's why they're here. They're here to learn and their mental health is just as important as their physical health. And those are key pieces to ensuring their success in life the more that the districts put that out to the parents. So when these issues come forward, it's not going to be such a scary topic to broach. And I think part of we keep talking about the stigma normalizing that it's okay. And honestly, when we do these programs and I know you both can proudly speak to this here, a lot of the issues are not detrimental.

Candice Porter:
I want to take my life. It's a door opener to I have a lot of anxiety going on. I'm really nervous. I'm feeling down. I'm feeling lonely. These are all risk factors to what we want to prevent. But it's encouraging the community to address their early. Just like if you have a cold or if you're, you know, ignoring your own physical ailment, if you can get help early, you can prevent. So that's the that's the key piece I don't want to miss here. We're not saying everything's suicide. It's scary. It's actually just talking about the normal hiccups that our kiddos are not they're all going to have. And just saying that this is an OK, time to like take a break, talk about it, go to who your trusted adult is and then telling the parents, you know, let's get help early and as often as we can so that we're not going to crisis mode and it's to prevent crisis mode. And the more we're doing the prevention side, we will prevent crisis mode. We know that the evidence is there for that.

Laura Knoy:
Anybody else want to jump in on that point? What do you do when kids won't go to that trusted adult? And among. I mean, I'm not going to generalize about all boys, but some boys are never going to. Tell their friends that they're feeling down or depressed.

Laura Knoy:
They're just not going to tell their friends that.

Julie Donovan:
I happen to have boys too, so I definitely understand that. But I think especially having students go into the classroom and teach it.

Julie Donovan:
It gives kids the language to be able to go forward and tell somebody, because those ambassadors say, hey, you know, let me help you with this. Let me walk you to your school counselor, because they're gonna they're gonna help you. It's scary. A lot of times students think that their parents are gonna be upset with them. And a lot of times parents are upset. But they're not upset with the student. They're upset because they're nervous. You know, when don't know what to do. They're scared. So, you know, having the right language. And again, I keep going back to the training and having, you know, these stigmatizing it. And people are really learn like, what does this mean? It doesn't have to be so scary. But I really think the peer to peer to me is key.

Candice Porter:
And I just want to jump in for Julie and that that point is is so key that we keep talking about. And in the bill, it does talk about training students because that is a key piece that the parents might not know what's going on. But most times their friends are seeing changes. They're seeing signs. And then the same thing that we talked about, coaches and other frontline staff that are working with our kids, that are not the experts, they are noticing changes. It's teaching them how to notice those changes and how to act. All right.

Laura Knoy:
Let's take another e-mail. This is Melissa who says I've been listening to your discussion this morning and I'm hearing the message that schools and pediatricians need to step up to the plate to help with this issue. Melissa says, While I agree that it takes a village, I would also like to hear about what our state and legislature will be doing outside of schools to increase the services available to families and children. As was mentioned, Melissa says there is a dearth of therapists long waits for services, even when kids have made an attempt at suicide and a lack of funding for families. This is the point I was trying to make before. Melissa, thank you very much.

Laura Knoy:
And Chief Lougee I wonder if you've seen an increase in your community or in this general sort of bow conquered Hopkinton area in terms of resources, especially aimed at children and families struggling with these mental health issues? Because Melissa's right, the schools can do a stellar job. But there's not a whole lot out there for families.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
There's a there's a long wait. We bring anybody threatening suicide to Concord Hospital. They go through the Riverbend process again, the long, long waits, long waits in the E.R.. I think the biggest thing for that is you're gonna get help. You need to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. And it may be a long wait, but there's gonna be somebody there for you in the end. You've got to, you know, persevere with insurance companies. You got to persevere with, you know, your doctor's office. You just gotta keep going. And again, fall back on those trusted adults that you can talk to. In the meantime, you're gonna get the services.

Laura Knoy:
Yeah. But it might mean a long wait Concord Hospital anyway. And kids don't want to be in barest by, you know, other people knowing that they were, you know, at Concord Hospital or some other emergency.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
But you're safe that the kids at that point, the adults, you're safe. You're at Concord Hospital and you're safe. And that's that's a huge part.

Candice Porter:
And just like you said, Chief, is it's an illness that can be treated if you break your arm. It's broken. It still can be treated. It might take a while to get there. And I think what we're doing right now is having the conversation. And, you know, to the email that was referenced, it's having the dialogue with your representatives, with your legislators, with your senators and keeping the conversation on the forefront. So that change can happen. And I think that that's something that's for this time is actually happening and that people are paying attention to what's going on.

Candice Porter:
And I always schools will say, well, there's nowhere to refer the children, why are you doing suicide prevention? But that child is still struggling. So even if there's nowhere to refer, can't you take the folks that can help, which are adults? We're all adults that are here to help our children. We can still train the folks that can help in that crisis the same way as if someone got physically hurt.

Candice Porter:
So that's the conversation needs to keep happening. You know, the resources, the more we talk about it. I think the resources will come. We're not quite there yet, but I think just passing this legislation alone is a key piece to moving the conversation forward. So go ahead.

Chief Margaret Lougee:
just with the school shootings. You know, we've we've passed you know, Homeland Security has done so much work on school. It's a it's the same thing. It's still an issue. Still needs to be worked. And it can be worked. And it's it's two hours of training and it can happen. And I just feel like, you know, where we're kind of anxious ourselves at it and we need to bring that down and let's do what's good for the students. Good for the adults. Good for the community. And keep talking about it. And again, you know, like we've been saying, it's a law. It was made by the people and keep talking talking about the issue.

Laura Knoy:
Well, Melissa, thank you very much for the e-mail. Go ahead, Julie.

Julie Donovan:
I just wanted to say jump off on that. So suicide prevention is violence prevention and homicide prevention, and that's why suicide prevention is really important. And as far as lack of mental health services, that's a systemic problem that's country wide nationwide and always has been. So that's, you know, legislation to address that. That's fine. But this isn't new. So I don't want people to think, oh, all of a sudden we have a mental health crisis. That's not the case. And I just wanted to make a really quick point, if I could, with this legislation and schools needing to step up to the plate, which I agree with. One of the things I think that's going to be really important is how is the Department of Education going to support schools going forward? And I also feel that the programs that they have to train staff in every two hours, every year going forward. I feel that it should be uniform. I don't know what other people on the panel feel. I feel it should be uniform. So if I transfer from Pinkerton Academy and get a job in Concord, I'm going to be doing similar training.

Laura Knoy:
Some people would say local districts should decide what works for their own local population and it needs to be evidence based.

Julie Donovan:
But I've really I'm I'm willing to work with the DOE to help them roll this out. I think it's really important in the schools and the DOE, we need to work together.

Laura Knoy:
How much money is this going to cost schools, if anything?

Candice Porter:
Well, for Connor's Climb we provide all the education training at no cost. Right now, you know, we're a small non-profit. We provide funding to over 70 schools across the state currently to get evidence based suicide prevention programming. But there is a cost behind it. It's minimal when you think of per pupil and the amount of dollars we're spending on other programming and resources.

Candice Porter:
But that is a conversation to be had. How to make it cost effective and sustainable is going to be a key piece. And I think there is a solution to that. And as we keep saying, the communication with the Department of Education and the key collaborators, a lot of them are here in this room to have that dialogue and make it sustainable and attainable. I think this is key.

Laura Knoy:
So some people are offering this training already for free. Your organization, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, New Hampshire chapter. But there will be some kind of a cost incurred.

Candice Porter:
it's the districts having to say that they're going to allow their faculty to take time to get trained. So what we're all proposing as a model is getting the core team similar to Julie trained so that she can help roll it out to her entire district.

Laura Knoy:
And districts have until July 1st next year to get this in place. So people listening think, oh, my gosh. School starts in, you know, a week or two. They do have some time to get this organized. And as I said, put in place all of you. Tough topic, important legislation to look at and understand and really appreciate it. But he coming in here, Chief Lou. Gee, thank you for your time. Really appreciate it. Welcome. Thank you. As Chief Margaret Lougee, chief of the Bow Police Department, former school resource officer, where she became a suicide prevention trainer. Julie, it was good to meet you. Thank you for your time. Thank you. Julie Donovan, former school counselor, current prevention specialist at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. And Candice Porter, really good to meet you, too. Thank you. Thank you so much. Candice Porter, executive director of the Connor's Climb Foundation, which provides education and collaboration for youth suicide prevention. Once again, lots of links, resources to our guests organizations and also to various health hotlines. Our Web address is an HP morgue slash exchange. This is The Exchange on New Hampshire Public Radio.

The views expressed in this program are those of the individuals and not those of an HP Ya, its board of trustees or its underwriters. Hey, if you'd like what you heard. Spread the word. Please give us a review on iTunes to help other listeners find us. And thanks.

 

*Chief Lougee contacted us after the show to clarify that mandated reporting applies specifically to adult and/or child abuse and neglect. According to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, "any person who has reason to suspect that a person is being abused or neglected must make a report to BEAS or DCYF, respectively."