TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. — EDITOR’S NOTE: The Suicide Prevention Task Force will present a series of articles during the next few weeks about our community’s commitment to the “Know the Signs” campaign and initiatives to help prevent youth suicide.
Over the course of the last two and half years, the Tahoe Truckee community has experienced a relatively high rate of youth suicide, losing six young people aged 12 to 23 during that time.
In response to these deaths, a unique collaboration was formed among Placer and Nevada counties, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, the Community Collaborative (representing 45 nonprofit organizations) and the Truckee Tahoe Community Foundation.
Soon after the last two suicides, the newly formed Task Force convened two community meetings involving approximately 200 community members.
They gathered to discuss community driven solutions and have embraced the following initiatives to prevent future youth suicide.
Three programs have been implemented at all three high schools through the TTUSD:
Wellness Centers, which offer wellness education and resources, identify students in need of help and provide support and follow-up for counseling.
Sources of Strength is a best practice youth suicide prevention project that utilizes the power of peer social networks to change unhealthy norms, including bullying and substance abuse. The program, sponsored by Nevada County, is designed to prevent suicide by increasing help seeking behaviors and connections between peers and caring adults.
What’s Up Wellness Checks, a health and wellness screening program helps identify at-risk students and refers them for professional treatment.
AlcoholEdu, a web-based tool designed to empower students to make well-informed decisions about alcohol use, is making a powerful impact with our students.
Within the general community, the Task Force plans to execute a training program for gatekeepers (those individuals who are actively engaged with youth) called QPR (Question, Persusade and Refer). It is a CPR equivalent for mental health emergencies, which defines three actions steps when suicide warning signs are observed.
There are now 10 qualified trainers who will conduct sessions throughout 2014 in the Truckee Tahoe area.
In September, the Task Force hired a local nonprofit professional, Amy Machin-Ward, as the coordinator. She will manage the collaborative work of the members, scheduling trainings and organizing meetings with the help of the Steering Committee — made up of staff from TTUSD, Nevada and Placer County, the Community Collaborative and key nonprofit organizations in the area. For more information about the Task Force or it’s efforts within the community, please contact her at 530-386-6047 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The main education strategy for the Task Force is provided by a program funded by the California Mental Health Act. It is a statewide effort to prevent suicide, reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness, called “Know the Signs” campaign.
This program was launched at the Oct. 22 Task Force meeting and is now being shared with individuals and presented to community groups. The goal is to educate 5,000 people by 2015.
More information about the Know the Signs campaign will be included in the next installment of this series.