RUMFORD – Mountain Valley High School was one of 12 high schools statewide to be honored Wednesday in Bangor for its strides in preventing youth suicides.
Kathy Sutton, health coordinator for SAD 43, said the school was one of 12 to share in a three-year grant provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 12 schools received a total of about $300,000, with SAD 43 receiving $24,000.
Programs supported by the grant began in 2003, she said.
“SAD 43 was part of the first group to go through it,” said high school Principal Matt Gilbert.
Programs include funding for:
• training every staff member in the district to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a possible suicide among young people and how to respond;
• offering of a freshman course known as Lifelines that helps train students to be aware of suicide symptoms;
• developing a set of in-school protocols that outlines a step-by-step process for dealing with suicides or attempted suicides; and
• developing an agreement with crisis agencies to respond to the school if a suicide or attempted suicide happens.
“This was a research project,” Sutton said. “We were a model for youth suicide prevention.”
She said freshman students learn to show others that they care by listening, by asking whether their friend or classmate is feeling suicidal, and encouraging friends to get help. They should never try to be a counselor to someone who is suicidal, Sutton said.
The toll-free crisis telephone number is (888) 568-1112.
Sutton said the data from Mountain Valley, as well as from the other 11 participating schools, will now be analyzed by the University of Maine.
Suicide is the second highest cause of death among young people age 15-24 in Maine, said Susan O’Halloran, project director for Suicide Prevention, Education and Training, under the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The first cause is vehicle crashes.
Maine ranks 29th in youth suicides, with a rate of 10.4 per 100,000 population, compared with the national average of 10.8 per 100,000 population.
She said for every youth suicide, estimates range from 25 to 100 attempts. She said virtually every state in the country has been working on suicide prevention since the 1950s.
Mountain Valley High School has experienced two suicides during the past 15 years, according to Sutton.
Other high schools who participated in the program include Jay, Houlton, Ashland, Belfast, Calais, Lincoln, Morse, Hampden, Noble, Portland and Richmond.
First Lady Karen Baldacci honored the participating schools in Bangor.