United Way Grant will support Wilton Youth Council’s suicide prevention effort at WHS with “HOPE Squad”

picture: contributed

United Way of Coastal Fairfield County awarded the Wilton Youth Council a scholarship to train students in a suicide prevention technique. The students are members of a new club called the HOPE Squadlaunch at Wilton High School this autumn.

Resident of Wilton and member of the United Way Board of Directors Lyn Salsdonneur Kobsa presented the grant to the Wilton Youth Council Executive Director Chandra Ringwilton school Safety Climate Coordinator at Kim Zemo School, Superintendent Kevin SmithHOPE Squad Advisor Emily Montgomery and senior on the rise Samira Ayoub.

“We are very grateful to United Way for this grant. It will be used to train our new members of the HOPE Squad in the ‘Question.Persuade.Refer.’ suicide prevention technique,” ​​Ring said.

The Question.Persuade.Refer. technique, known as QPR, is a practical and proven method of suicide prevention that teaches trainees how to recognize and respond to the warning signs that someone is considering suicide. Trainees learn to ask key questions about suicidal thoughts or plans, persuade the struggling person to seek and accept help, and then refer them to trusted adults or professionals for help. ‘assistance.

Kobsa said she was proud to present the United Way grant to the Wilton Youth Council. “As a parent whose children have attended Wilton schools, I realize the importance of peer support; as a public health professional, i recognize the critical need for mental health support for our young people. I hope this grant will help promote student welfare at Wilton.

Ring thinks the grant-funded training couldn’t have come at a better time, given the heightened need for support among American students. Recently both American Academy of Pediatrics and the American surgeon general issued warnings about the growing youth mental health crisis, which has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. They point to an alarming increase in depression, anxiety and mental distress among adolescents, which has led to a double-digit increase in emergency room visits for children in crisis.

Moreover, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year olds in the country. NAMI found that nearly 20% of high school students report serious suicidal thoughts and 9% have attempted suicide.

The QPR technique will be part of training for members of HOPE Squad, a new student club that aims to prevent suicide through public awareness and education, reduce the stigma surrounding mental health, and serve as a resource for those affected. by suicide. Student members are nominated by peers who see them as empathetic, non-judgmental and eager to help others – in short, someone they would turn to if they were experiencing emotional difficulties.

“We recognize that part of the solution to teen suicide lies with teens themselves,” noted Zemo, who oversees how the school district approaches mental health. “That’s why we were so excited when our student, Samira Ayoub, pitched the idea for HOPE Squad to us,” added Zemo.

“Children talk to each other. It is therefore important that students have the skills to recognize warning signs and know how to help each other. With training, we can make a positive difference in the life of someone we know,” Ayoub said.

The data supports Ayoub’s assertion: about seven out of ten young people who commit suicide tell a friend rather than an adult. Without training, this friend will often not tell anyone.

As a proven way to combat the epidemic of teen suicide, the HOPE Squad is currently used by 1,200 schools in 35 US states and Canada. The Wilton club will be just the second HOPE Squad in Connecticut, joining the state’s other club in Newtown – the site of the Sandy Hook school shooting tragedy.

Ring noted that Wilton school staff members have also been trained in the QPR method, so there will be a good synergy of skills between adults and students in the district. “With staff retraining and new HOPE Club student member training scheduled for the fall, our schools will complete a full cycle of suicide prevention training,” she said.

“Centraide is Wilton’s United Way, and we are happy to support schools and youth in my hometown,” Kobsa said. “We look forward to additional partnerships to build resilient communities – where all of our residents have the opportunity to thrive.”