Upcoming discussions on teen wellness set

Published 10:29 pm Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Teen suicide rates in the U.S. have been steadily increasing since 2006, according to a Suffolk Public Schools press release. Nearly one in five teens across the nation reported that they’ve considered suicide in the past year, and depression is the single greatest risk factor for suicide.

The school division will once again partner with the Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation to start the conversation about depression with both teens and the staff, parents and others who look after them.

The 2018 Virginia General Assembly passed new legislation that requires mental health education in high schools, but Suffolk Public Schools began its outreach to eighth- and 10th-graders before the mandate, during the 2017-2018 school year.

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Over the next few months, Suffolk sophomores and eighth-graders will watch “More than Sad: Teen Depression” in their health and physical education classes. This video was produced by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help students recognize signs of depressions in themselves or others.

It’s meant to challenge the stigma surrounding depression while encouraging students to ask for help when they need it.

The students will then be engaged to discuss the major points of the video and talk about their impressions of it, said school division spokeswoman Cheri Hinshelwood. Teachers and support staff will view a companion video before the student presentations at their respective schools.

“It raises awareness that depression affects more than just a handful of students, and it’s not always who you think it’s affecting,” Hinshelwood said. “It really kind of challenges stereotypes and helps teens understand that it’s not just them.”

Parents and others in the community will be able to attend special previews at the schools to prepare for discussions at home.

Hinshelwood said the door is open for anyone that works with Suffolk teens, including coaches, youth pastors and scout leaders.

“We’re really trying to open this up, because we’re trying to build a stronger safety net for Suffolk students,” she said.

The presentations will be held on the following dates and at the following schools.

  • Jan. 30, 6 p.m. at King’s Fork High School, 351 Kings Fork Road
  • Feb. 6, 6 p.m. Lakeland High School, 214 Kenyon Road
  • Feb. 20, 6:30 p.m. at Nansemond River High School, 3301 Nansemond Parkway
  • Feb. 27, 6:30 p.m. at Col. Fred Cherry Middle School, 7401 Burbage Drive
  • March 6, 6 p.m. at Forest Glen Middle School, 200 Forest Glen Drive
  • March 13, 6 p.m. at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 2325 E. Washington St.
  • March 20, 6 p.m. at John Yeates Middle School, 4901 Bennetts Pasture Road
  • March 27, 6 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School, 350 Kings Fork Road

For more information, visit spsk12.net or contact your child’s school.