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RSU 9 hears school efforts to prevent suicide

FARMINGTON — All staff in Regional School Unit 9 have been trained in suicide prevention as a result of a state law passed in 2013.

The district has lost some students to suicide in recent years.

RSU 9 Crisis-Response Team Co-Chairwomen Jan Welch, a middle school counselor, and Nadine Fenderson, a middle school social worker, gave an overview of what the district does in the schools for suicide prevention to the board of directors on Tuesday.

Each school has at least one member of the staff who has been trained, Welch said. The program is put on by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, she said.

At the district level, there is an active crisis team that meets once a month to review and discuss protocol, Fenderson said.

Often, a “kid is brought to our attention that somebody is worried about and we follow and set protocol to assess whether we need to take additional steps,” she said.

They notify the students’ parents when they do an assessment, as well as others who are involved.

“We just recently, today, had a protocol we did, and it started out with a classroom teacher; it went to the nurse and Jan,” Fenderson said. “Jan was concerned. She pulled me in. I spent time with the student. Often kids will tell you the right thing. They will say the right thing to you and over time, you sort of learn and you just pay attention to what else they say.”

Even though the child denied thoughts or plans of suicide, school staff ended up calling Evergreen (Behavior Services), she said. Evergreen assessed the student (and) believed the student needed to have further assessment.

“We, in collaboration with transportation, got the kid to (Franklin Memorial Hospital) and the parent,” she said. “We are really are committed to making sure kids are safe.”

A parent of a student in need of help had no transportation, Welch said. The school called the district bus garage, and the student, parent and another adult were taken to Evergreen, she said.

“A lot of districts don’t have that option,” Welch said. “So it was really helpful today. The other option would have been a police car or an ambulance. Neither one of us felt real good about that.”

The district’s crisis team is made up of all school counselors, Superintendent Tom Ward, Evergreen Crisis, the school resource officer, one administrator, the nurse supervisor and the social worker supervisor, she said.

Welch said that in her opinion, the responsibility the team has sometimes is heavy.

“We are on-call basically because crises don’t always happen during the school day,” she said.

The team is blessed with all the resources it has, she said.

Each school has its own way to teach students about suicide prevention geared to the appropriate level. This includes using a Lifelines Curriculum from the National Alliance on Mental Illness in health classes at the Mt. Blue High School. The curriculum teaches students how to identify when a friend is in trouble, how they can help their friends and where they can find this help.

Students have been told to speak to an adult if they see something that concerns them, Welch said.

The team also provides other programs in the schools to try and keep students safe, she said.

The full presentation at the Oct. 11 board meeting can be viewed at livestream.com/FTCDigitalMedia.


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