School board hears suicide prevention procedures

by Sheldon Ocker

May 9 school board work session

One byproduct of the isolation created by the two-year ordeal with COVID-19 has been an uptick in suicide attempts and thoughts of suicide among teenagers.

Consequently, the challenge of preventing suicide and identifying kids who seriously consider ending their lives has fallen on school counselors, teachers and administrators.

Revere school counselor Emily Rion gave a presentation to the Revere school board about what is being done to help kids who have suicidal thoughts or intentions.

“It has definitely increased during the past several years,’’ she said.

Rion said that according to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 16% of high school students and 8% of college students have seriously considered suicide. Also, according to the CDC, about one in 10 high school students suffer from depression.

“I think that number [of depressed students] is higher,’’ Rion said. “When I look in a classroom – when I walk in – I know my students individually. I know that number is higher.’’

One tool the district has begun using is the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale. It assesses the risk that someone is suicidally inclined. Patients are asked specific questions that inform a trained interviewer of the likelihood a person will harm themselves.

Revere counselors are using the program. If they fear a student is vulnerable, counselors immediately speak with parents about a plan of action.

That often involves admitting the student to a behavioral health facility. However, Rion said most of these centers are understaffed and overbooked, so it can be difficult to get immediate treatment.

“Currently, I have three kids in the hospital,’’ Rion said.

Rion can track students afflicted at school, but she has no easy way of knowing if an incident is triggered in the evening or on weekends.

“I estimate it would be double the number of the ones we know about,’’ she said.

   Fitness update

Tanner Schroer, Revere’s strength and conditioning coach, gave an update on the level of participation by athletes, mostly at the high school.

“Throughout the school year, I’m working with 436 high school athletes,’’ he said. “On a given day, I’m working with 30-40 athletes, up to 130.’’

Schroer said that 19 of Revere’s 22 varsity teams are taking advantage of his sessions. He also is serving three middle school teams and a few kids who are not members of sports teams.

Boys and girls golf and boys tennis have not participated in the strength and conditioning program, according to Schroer.

“I reached out to all of them,’’ he said. “It was really a lack of interest.’’

Revere athletes have been more likely to participate in the program during their season rather than in their offseason.

“In-season, coaches build it [the program] into practice, so in-season participation has been incredible,’’ Schroer said.

Athletic Director Don Seeker revealed that Revere will be seeking a new strength and conditioning coach for next school year, because Schroer is leaving the profession to attend a police academy.

   Planning ahead

The next total solar eclipse, a relative rarity, will happen on April 8, 2024, but Superintendent Michael Tefs already is contemplating the best way for students to see the show.

“It’s obviously going to be a significant event,’’ he said. “It is THE conversation around school districts and among superintendents.’’

Northeast Ohio will be prime viewing area, especially between 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., according to Tefs, and maximum effect of the moon blocking out the sun will be seen at 3:15 p.m., when many students are riding school buses home.

Tefs said some districts are planning to cancel school that day, and others are considering sending kids home early.

“We’re going to have those conversations,’’ Tefs said. “As superintendent, I’m a big believer that you need to be in school that day. It is such an educational opportunity.’’

Tefs wants Revere students to watch the eclipse and not through the window of a school bus.

Among items to be discussed is protecting viewers’ eyes, which can be damaged from watching an eclipse unprotected.

“I just wanted you [the board] to know and the community to know we’re talking about this,’’ Tefs said. ∞