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Toronto works to prevent suicides

It is a sobering fact that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people between the ages of 10 and 19 in the United States.

In fact, more teenagers and young adults will die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That’s why it is encouraging to learn that the Toronto City School District has partnered with the Signs of Suicide Prevention Program offered by Nationwide Childrens Hospital.

Through the program, students in grades seven and 10 are being taught possible signs of depression and suicidal thoughts that might be displayed or expressed by their peers.

According to the Columbus-based hospital, it is the only school-based program listed on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. It has shown a decrease of between 40 and 64 percent of self-reported suicide attempts by students.

Superintendent Maureen Taggart offered details about the program during the Sept. 17 school board meeting. She explained that participating students had undergone screening to identify those who could be at risk, and further evaluation and counseling were made available for those who needed it.

The program encourages teens who suspect a peer could be suffering from depression or suicidal thoughts to share that information with a trusted adult. That message takes on added meaning in September, which is National Suicide Prevention Month.

It’s an important topic for the educators, parents and caregivers who must deal with the knowledge that one in six teens has seriously considered suicide in the past year, information from the hospital noted. The hospital adds that a single death by suicide can have a profound impact on a school and raise the risk of additional suicides if not managed properly.

Taggart said the program has been well-received by students and added staff members from the hospital were impressed at the level of counseling that already was available to students through agencies that already had been working with the district. She was able to sum up its value with one simple sentence:

“If it helps save one life, it was worth it.”

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