Grades 5-12: Growing Number of Suicides Forces Kansas School Districts to Incorporate Mental Health into Curriculum

Curriculum Review, February 2016 | Go to article overview

Grades 5-12: Growing Number of Suicides Forces Kansas School Districts to Incorporate Mental Health into Curriculum


Johnson County Schools (JCS) faced the unthinkable: two students committed suicide on Nov. 7 and Nov. 9, 2015, reports KansasCity.com.

"The day we found out, it was a chaotic mess around here... Kids were crying and hugging in the hallways. It changed us as a school," Student Council president Brant Pitcairn told reporters.

Before the suicides, JCS was taking steps to address mental health among students by adding counseling curriculum and creating small groups to support students "dealing with grief, stress, or abuse." However, in light of the recent suicides, administrators want to take their efforts a step further.

The district plans to:

* Intensify teacher and staff training about the signs of suicide and mental illness

* Bring parents into the discussion

* Increase counseling and anti-bullying efforts to help students have a strong mental health foundation

"We need to break through the silence of suicides and mental illnesses, because if we look in the other direction, we're not doing our job as educators," assistant superintendent for Olathe Public Schools (OPS), Erin Dugan, tells KansasCity.com. "We need to help students seek help when they're feeling despair. It's important for them to realize they're not alone and they can reach out to an adult to figure things out."

A Growing Problem in the State of Kansas

Six years ago another Kansas school district, Blue Valley, experienced a number of student suicides in an 18-month time span, say reporters. As a result, the district created a suicide prevention task force "in 2011 to strengthen prevention efforts and to better respond to students having suicidal thoughts. The task force was made up of teachers, administrators, psychologists, and school counselors."

Blue Valley District incorporated new counseling curriculum geared towards elementary school students about resiliency. Lessons include "problem solving and how to bounce back from disappointment. A new Signs of Suicide program in middle and high schools helps students recognize signs of suicide" and teaches them how to get help. …

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