News Article Details

MCPS holds discussion on suicide at Spring Hill

Daily Herald - 3/3/2017

March 03--Students, parents, teachers and counselors all gathered inside the quiet halls of Spring Hill High School's library on Tuesday to talk about one of the darkest subjects in mental health, suicide.

"There are a lot of people at our school that you can definitely see that are struggling," Columbia Central sophomore Michaela Gaines, 16, said. "Me, I don't really like going up to people, asking them, but coming here, it just let me know what I should do as far as the

counselors or speaking to their parents. It helps me know the next step."

The discussion followed the recent loss of a student at Spring Hill High School.

"It's a tragic loss," Maury County Public Schools Supervisor of Counseling & Mental Health Dr. Robb Killen said following the meeting. "We hate for any family in any school district to go through the loss of a student. Sometimes, there seems to be something so tragic about the loss of a student by suicide and all the questions that people begin to ask themselves."

Killen said Spring Hill's counselors have done an excellent job of working with students and parents.

The event was co-hosted by Maury County Pubic Schools and the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, a grassroots association which includes counselors, mental health professionals and physicians dedicated to implementing the state's suicide prevention strategy.

"Spring Hill High School is very proactive with the current legislation, which requires schools to have a prevention policy and intervention," Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network Executive Director Scott Ridgeway said, following his talk with Maury County's community members. "Anytime we have reached one person, we are doing what we need to do, because one suicide is one suicide too many."

To those in attendance, Ridgeway emphasized there are many resources available for those who are thinking about harming themselves and those who suspect someone they know might do so.

"I think it helps a lot," Columbia Central sophomore Brittney Trew, 16, said. "You don't really know what you should say to them. I didn't know about all the crisis services that are available to us."

Ridgeway encourage all those in a crisis to contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-741 or text TN to 471-471 for immediate help.

"Students need to realize that no matter what struggles or difficulties they are having in life, we know that it is difficult to live as a child these days," Ridgeway said. "There a lot of other stressors that kids can't get away from where five, 10 years ago, kids could get away from those things. With social media, you are always in the mix. There is always something going on and I want to encourage kids that there is help out there."

The members from the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network were joined by the members of Cowboy Up, a local Junior Auxiliary project with the goal of spreading the message of suicide awareness and prevention.

"Anything to create awareness and educate the public, that is what we are about," Cowboy Up founder Regina Perry said following the evening's talk.

Every year, the organization hosts a talk with all the 7th graders in Maury County Public Schools and hosts community events with the goal of sppeading awareness of suicide prevention, education and hope.

Cowboy Up also meets with students from other school districts across the state.

"Awareness is the main thing, but it's all about connecting people with resources, whether it is the student's family, faculty or anybody who needs that help," said Troy Coleman, a country rap artist and spokesperson for Cowboy Up.

The organization is scheduled to meet with students at Whitthorne Elementary School next week.

"It's wonderful to see all these resources and organizations willing to come out and be available to the community," Killen said. "It's a combined effort. We are trying to attack this combined effort of suicide. Mental health is something that we are just trying to attack head on, from all different angles. We are trying to get out there and use our ears to listen and ask the right questions."

Killen has developed a suicide threat protocol for the educators of Maury County, giving students and teachers resources in how to identify students and preventing the act.

Ridgeway commended the initiative and mentioned that Maury County's program has become a topic of discussion on the state level.

"It's a work in progress," Killen said of the new program. "But it has been wonderful to approach a suicidal threat in school. It's helping to expedite things and it has created a consistency throughout the district."

The new initiatives were first implemented in summer 2016, shortly after Killen's arrival in the school district.

For more information on suicide and suicide prevention, visit tspn.org.

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(c)2017 The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.)

Visit The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.) at www.columbiadailyherald.com

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