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Port Charlotte Is Squashing Mental Health Stigmas Through Education

When people think of suicide, they often think of teenagers. The assumption usually encompasses the uninvolved, quiet student who has had enough of life, and most likely watched the full season of ‘13 Reasons Why’. However, the data doesn’t quite back that up.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq/index.shtml) , older white males are most at risk for suicide. Additionally, the risk amongst the youth is rising to comparable numbers. To combat misconceptions surrounding suicide, Charlotte Behavioral Health created a program called Signs of Suicide.

The one day class targets 7th and 8th graders. It teaches them how to deal with issues such as stress, bullying, and substance abuse. It also points them towards helpful resources they can apply in their everyday life. The class consists of actors playing out scenarios, providing time for students and facilitators to discuss each scenario. The program was originally planned to target 9th graders but was switched after an eighth-grader committed suicide that year.

Signs of Suicide is growing in popularity in the Port Charlotte community. It is quickly spreading to other counties who are adopting the off-shoot of the program calling it, ‘Purple Packages’. This program includes a ‘post-vention’ package that is left with a loved one. In each package are valuable resources including numbers to call to cope with the loss of a loved one.

The hope is that influencing students earlier with this program will enable them to carry on the knowledge into their adult years. And if they do happen to run into a period of depression, because of the support from this program, they won’t see suicide as an option.

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