Freshmen learn how to prevent suicide


Sam Newman, Review Staff

Feature Photo By: Sam Newman – Mr. Melendez, a geography teacher, explains what the Suicide Prevention Program is to his class. The job of educating the freshmen on suicide prevention is left to the social studies department because all freshmen are required to take a geography class.

High school can be a very hard time for some people. The transition from middle school to high school can be described as even worse.

Under the sudden surge of work and responsibility that comes with high school, incoming freshmen often become stressed. Mix that with the normal social stresses of the teenage years, and an intense depression will overtake some of the new freshmen.

This fact does not elude the staff of Rangeview, or the staff of the district, for that matter. Therefore, in an effort to help the incoming freshmen who do experience depression, Rangeview High School has implemented a depression-awareness unit called the Signs of Suicide (S.O.S.) Prevention Program.

The program is administered by the freshmen social studies teachers, due to the fact that all freshmen are required to take a geography class. Mr. Sladek, Mr. Hafner, Mr. Alconcel, Mr. Snyder, and Mr. Melendez are the teachers with the responsibility of educating the freshmen, and they are assisted by the school’s counselors, psychologist, and social worker.

Mr. Lubet (left), Rangeview’s psychologist, sits in front of Mr. Melendez’s class, listening to Mr. Melendez give a lesson on detecting suicidal tendencies. There are always two adults in the room during a suicide talk: one to teach, and one to help individual students if they need it. (Sam Newman)

Mr. Melendez stated that “the purpose of [the S.O.S. Prevention Program] is to basically give students an idea of what are some of the signs of depression, since depression is one of the underlying causes of suicide.”

The program is taught in part through vignettes, demonstrating situations where a person shows suicidal tendencies and how their friends or family should and should not react. The teachers also lecture the students on the topic, while attempting to be as engaging as possible.

Though the subject can be dark and hard to talk about, the teachers find that they have a remarkable amount of engagement in their students during the education on the signs of suicide.

“Most students seem engaged,” said Mr. Melendez. “I typically don’t call on students — I don’t require students to respond — and all of my classes this year, I’ve gotten a third of the class to give me responses; it’s not just two people giving me all of the answers.”

One of the main focuses of the S.O.S. Prevention Program is a protocol called ACT. The aim is for students to be able to use ACT to help their friends and family –or even themselves– in the event of depression. ACT is an acronym, with the meaning as follows:

A – Acknowledge that the signs of depression are there, and that this person may need help.

C – Care about the person, ask them questions and talk to them, help them through.

T – Tell an adult, get the person professional help if they show the signs of suicide.

“[The S.O.S. Prevention Program] gave me some resources to use in case I know someone in need,” said Ellie Newman, a freshman in Mr. Melendez’s geography class.

The Rangeview staff are aware that talking about suicide and depression can be very difficult for some people, and they take precautions just in case someone is affected by the lessons.

During the program, there are always two adults in the room: one to educate the whole class on the subject, and one to speak to and help individual students if they need to step outside during the lesson.

A freshmen geography class listens attentively to a lesson on ACT. ACT is the abbreviation for what to do if you or someone you know is depressed, standing for Acknowledge, Care, and Tell. (Sam Newman)

The only requirement for students at the end of the program is that they turn in a paper that says whether or not they want to speak to a counselor or someone else. The counselors will call down anyone that said that they wanted to talk with someone at the first opportunity. They prepare for an influx of visitors to the counseling office because of the lessons.

“It was a very busy week for all of us as we present the lesson and then follow up with students after the presentations,” said Linda Moriarity, a Rangeview counselor. “This averages about 50 students who request to be seen in the days following the lesson.”

The S.O.S. Prevention Program has been very helpful to many stressed out and overwhelmed freshmen. In fact, some of the Rangeview staff believe that the program should be extended, in one way or another, to the other grades of high school.

In Melendez’s words, “as a teacher, I almost feel like it’s something that students should be reminded of every year. I think it shouldn’t just be freshmen; I think it should at least be revisited once or twice in your high school career.”

The program took place during the week of October 30th. To read more about the S.O.S. Prevention Program in terms of Rangeview High School, click here.

On Friday, November 10th, all fourth period teachers will be showing a video to educate students in using Safe2Tell, a system to allow students to anonymously report someone for suicidal or homicidal thoughts, bullying, depression, etc. You can watch the video that will be shown to all grades here.