WASHINGTON — “I really want to hear what’s going on. I want to help you.”
Those are two of the most important things a pre-teen or teenager struggling with suicidal thoughts can hear, says Leslie Roberts, a prevention specialist supervisor at the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, a county agency that deals with wellness and mental health.
Those quotes are the latest tools being offered to classroom teachers, who may be the first to spot serious emotional problems among their students.
The CSB is partnering with Fairfax County Public Schools to get teachers at all middle schools and high schools trained in suicide prevention.
The teachers aren’t expected to counsel the students, Roberts says, but to ask the questions that might identify a student at risk for suicide.
The teachers have “been very open to it,” Roberts says. “They brought great questions to the sessions.”
Training has occurred over the past year, and teachers say they feel better equipped to get kids the help they need, Roberts says.
While the teachers may be open to the training: Would middle and high school students feel comfortable opening up to a teacher or school staff member?
“They feel relieved,” Roberts confirms. “They really want somebody to know.”
Also, parents are happy to get information on suicide prevention. “We’ve gotten a very positive response. They’ve been so grateful,” Roberts says.
The CSB uses the CrisiLink Text Hotline to help teenagers who may be dealing with suicidal thoughts.
The hotline isn’t just for those contemplating suicide; the free, 24/7 text service handles all crises, though standard text rates still apply.
WTOP’s Kate Ryan contributed to this report.