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WSD reviews suicide prevention resources available in schools

Whitefish Pilot | October 27, 2021 1:00 AM

In response to recent teen suicides in the Flathead Valley, Whitefish School District is reviewing their suicide prevention programs and resources.

At a recent Whitefish School Board meeting Superintendent Dave Means presented a list of some available resources. Some of the support available that Means spoke of is new as of the last few years and some has been around for many years.

He said one important program the district does each year is the annual online safe schools training regarding suicide prevention. All staff districtwide, and now all activity coaches as well, take the day-long training every year.

Recently the district also assembled a suicide advisory task force to help keep up to date on all of the available resources and programs they could be providing students, staff and parents. The committee, according to Means, is composed of school psychologists, counselors, a school board trustee, some administrators, a representative from the Nate Chute Foundation and parents from each Whitefish school.

“One of the things we’re doing right now that I want to mention is we’ve also put together a suicide prevention advisory task force,” Means told the board. “We’re working together to look at what we’re currently doing but also consider if there’s anything additional that we need to be looking into.”

Another training called Mental Health First Aid, which is a national program that teaches skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use, is also available to staff.

Means says several presentations about suicide awareness and prevention have taken place at Muldown, the middle school and the high school in recent weeks. Also a student-formed group at the high school is beginning to meet to discuss ways of preventing teen suicides.

The school district has implemented a social-emotional learning curriculum over the years including Muldown’s Getting Along Together program and the Middle School’s Second Step program, which has been used in several ways for around 20 years, Means said.

In addition all three schools are working on relationship building strategies during home room classes.

“We are focusing on developing relationships in our home rooms in grades K to eight, and the Basecamp at the high school for nine to 12 is focusing on relationship building there as well between teachers and students, and students with each other,” Means said.

Means mentioned a Bulldog Tip Line is available on the schools websites, resources are linked and counselors are available at the schools to help any students in need.

The superintendent hopes the advisory committee and district can continue to look at available resources related to suicide prevention and add more programs, trainings and presentations that would be helpful to families in the district.

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