The case for mental health care and mental health awareness—particularly as it pertains to youth— is clear: More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.
Yet, determining the best method of prevention education and intervention is often far more difficult.
Enter Lifelines, a unique collaboration between Fairview Community Health and ten school districts in the Fairview Lakes and Fairview Northland service area—working to prevent youth suicide.
Providing a Lifeline for students in need
Lifelines is a comprehensive evidence-based suicide prevention program that targets the entire school community, providing suicide awareness education material for administrators, faculty, parents and students.
In October of this year, Fairview Community Health brought together more than 210 individuals from a variety of backgrounds—educators, school administrators, psychologists, counselors, social workers, school resource officers, community mental health providers, faith community members—and more to participate in a three-day Lifelines training.
“The Lifelines model is a unique example of how we can partner with our community to address their self-identified needs to improve the health of those we serve,” says Kathy Bystrom, north region manager of community health.
Attending training is the first of several program steps schools are encouraged to take that range from conducting an administrative readiness evaluation of school crisis response plans to establishing a suicide risk assessment protocol and identifying community level resources to parent education and staff education. The program culminates in the integration of suicide prevention curriculum into middle and high school health classes.
Implementing techniques in the classroom and beyond
Following the training, participants returned to their roles armed with the tools necessary to move the Lifelines program forward.
“To have professionals train us with the best practices in suicide prevention has given us new confidence,” says Barbara Muckenhirn, principal of Princeton High School. “We have already taken steps to put into practice things that we learned at training—our first response checklist is updated, our crisis response team has met to review protocols and additional planning pieces are in the works.”
Fairview Community Health continues to offer program support, providing technical assistance, parent education, ongoing staff trainings and more.
“This is some of the most important work that we do and we are so grateful for the support provided through this Lifelines training,” says Barbara.