Ron Silverman, Founder, Mat Thew Silverman Memorial Foundation 2017-08-24 07:42:06
Our students can flourish: Here is how If our students are to flourish in the classroom and in life, we must begin an uncomfortable conversation. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in children aged 10-14 and the second cause of death for young people aged 15-24. In addition, on average, each year 575,000 teens attempt suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 percent of high school students surveyed reported that, in the last 12 months, they had thought often about suicide, 14 percent said they had made a plan for suicide and 9 percent said they had made one or more suicide attempts. Compounding these tragic statistics is the fact that youth suicide and mental health problems are often met with a toxic mix of silence, stigma and sensationalism. We cannot let this kind of despair stand. We know suicide is preventable. But we must talk about it openly. And we must begin before we lose still more children to preventable death and incapacitating despair. We cannot fix what we won’t talk about. When youth suicide and mental health problems rise to the level of a public health emergency, they demand new thinking and immediate action on many fronts. Our mission is clear and urgent: We must begin saving our children’s lives through lifeline prevention and mental health education programs. Such programs are the centerpiece of any good learning strategy designed to produce thriving, graduating students. As one principal told me, “It’s easier to raise healthy students than to fix broken adults.” The answer is to establish early and ongoing mental health programs for all students at every grade level. Mental health is a language we rarely teach, and this omission is imperiling the future of a generation of children and our communities as a whole. We must move from a crisis-intervention mode to integrating mental health education into our curriculum. Students tell me that learning about good coping skills, the five warning signs, viewing help-seeking behavior as a strength and access to community resources are the only ways the school environment can be truly conducive to learning. Students themselves are engaging in the effort to help their cohorts. For example, at Saugus High School, student journalists are producing a documentary on teen suicide, and their student paper is covering student-led activities like the recent Not One More concert, hosted by the Not One More Teen Suicide Club on campus. At the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation, we vet the best evidence-based youth mental health programs in the nation and deliver them free-of-charge to California middle schools and high schools in order to save lives. Dr. Michael Bregy, superintendent of the Beverly Hills Unified School District, was one of the early adopters of mental health education as the basis for better classroom performance and higher graduation rates. He supports MSMF-funded mental health programs and curriculum at BHUSD schools “1000 percent.” South Pasadena High School counselor Tracy Ishimaru also welcomed MSMF-underwritten mental health presentations for her 1,600 9th-12th grade students during the 2016-17 school year, “in order to give them strategies to not only survive the social and academic pressures of high school, but to be their best selves.” Significantly, retired Major General Dana Pittard, who stressed suicide-prevention programs at the U.S. Army’s Fort Bliss in Texas, says the same thing: teaching mental health every school year is crucial to producing a nation of young people who are better equipped for the stresses of life, whether on the battlefield or off. The fight to save our children’s lives takes all of us working together and begins with a community-wide conversation. Start one today. Commit to youth mental health education and ask others to join you. Reach out to MSMF to provide the help students need, and explore local and state resources in your district. Ron Silverman founded the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation (www.mattsfoundation.org) after his only child, Matt, took his own life at age 18. Since 2015, MSMF-funded mental health programs have touched more than 50,000 middle school and high school students, nearly 7,000 parents and 1,700 teachers in California.
Published by California School Boards Association. View All Articles.
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