Programs to discuss teen depression

Published 8:28 pm Friday, November 29, 2019

Suffolk Public Schools will hold a series of community presentations to engage parents and other concerned adults in important discussions regarding student mental wellness, teen depression and suicide.

The first presentation will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Nansemond River High School, 3301 Nansemond Parkway. This will be the first of eight scheduled presentations, which will each be held at 6 p.m. at a different public high school or middle school in Suffolk, from December into February.

These “parent and community discussions” presentations will facilitate “adult” discussions that will cover the information students will receive in the classroom, according to the Suffolk Public Schools press release. These are not intended for young audiences, as each discussion will cover “sensitive content.”


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The press release states that since 2006, teen suicide rates in the United States have been steadily increasing. Nearly one in five teens has reported “seriously considering suicide” in the past year, and depression is the “single greatest risk factor for suicide.”

“As hard as it is to say, nearly every city in Hampton Roads has suffered the loss of a teen by suicide in recent years,” according to the press release. “SPS recognizes that many more students are struggling.”

SPS began its outreach to all eighth- through 10th-graders during the 2017-2018 school year. The division is partnering with the Sarah Michelle Peterson Foundation to initiate discussions in the classroom about teen depression.

This year, 10th-graders will be presented with materials from Erika’s Lighthouse, a nonprofit organization that’s committed to eliminating the stigma surrounding adolescent depression and empowering young people to take ownership of their mental health, according to the press release.

“Erika’s Lighthouse programs promote early identification and treatment of depression, which is the best hope in preventing suicide,” the press release states.

Eighth-graders will be presented with information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, using the “More than Sad: Teen Depression” video. This video is designed to help students recognize the signs of depression in themselves or others, to challenge the stigma surrounding depression and to learn how to ask for help.

Before student presentations at each public school, the Suffolk teachers and support staff will view the videos and discuss warning signs, what to say and how to guide teens to help. Parents will also preview the videos before their children’s student lessons, so that they can be prepared for discussions at home.

Beyond just parents and staff, all those who work with teens — like coaches, community sports directors, youth pastors, activity directors and scout leaders — are invited and encouraged to attend any of the parent and community discussions, according to the press release.

The schedule of presentations is as follows. Each program is set for 6 p.m.

  • Dec. 4 — Nansemond River High School
  • Dec. 11 — Lakeland High School
  • Jan. 8 — King’s Fork High School
  • Jan. 15 — Forest Glen Middle School
  • Jan. 29 — John F. Kennedy Middle School
  • Feb. 5 — King’s Fork Middle School
  • Feb. 12 — Col. Fred Cherry Middle School
  • Feb. 19 — John Yeates Middle School

For more information, call Anne McCoy at 925-6750.