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Sherman ISD Puts Focus on Suicide Prevention For September

Rebecca Riley talks with sixth graders about safe and unsafe secrets.September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and Sherman ISD secondary schools have been working to educate students on the importance of coping skills, recognizing the signs and reporting them to trusted adults.

“Suicide is preventable,” said Aileen Hays, coordinator of counseling and student services. “If we make students aware of what to do if they or a friend are having thoughts of suicide, then we can get them help and prevent a tragedy.”

At Piner and Sherman middle schools, students learned about healthy coping skills, such as physical wellness or music expression, from mental health professionals at the Grant Halliburton Foundation, which provides mental health education, training and support to schools. The professionals also touched on warning signs of suicide and emphasized the importance of reporting it to a trusted adult.

The school counselors taught students about TAG (Take it seriously, Ask questions, and Get help) and discussed the difference between safe and unsafe secrets and why secrets can be dangerous

“It can be an uncomfortable topic,” said Rebecca Riley, sixth grade counselor at Piner. “But if we teach students what to do, to speak up and get help, these problems can be addressed.”

The Grant Halliburton Foundation and Sherman ISD have collaborated for four years, Hays said, and Hope Squad, a peer-based suicide awareness and prevention group, is funded by the Foundation at the middle and high school level.

At Sherman High School, the Hope Squad, led by student support counselor Amy Milner, put together a suicide prevention video that gave students a tool to respond to tense situations: Question, Persuade and Refer (QPR). It can be compared to CPR, Hays said.

Shauna Barnes talks to eighth graders about healthy coping strategies.“When we get these tools in front of the students early in the year, it can really help them to know what to do in those situations,” she said.

Sherman ISD also works closely with community agencies like Texoma Community Center and Communities in Schools to offer resources to students in trouble. Teachers are also trained every year in suicide prevention.

“I want students to know that we have a caring community here in Sherman,” Hays said. “When students tell a trusted adult, we can work to get them the help and resources that they need. There is always hope.”