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Warren County Public School Special Services (WCPS) Director Michael Hirsch (above) gives the Warren County School Board an update on ongoing suicide awareness and prevention efforts within of the WCPS.

Ongoing efforts are underway at Warren County Public Schools (WCPS) to help raise awareness about suicide prevention.

“Our school system is not immune to this tragedy, and we have been emphasizing mental health,” WCPS Superintendent Christopher Ballenger told the Warren County School Board at its regular meeting. Wednesday, September 7.

School board president Kristen Pence, vice president Ralph Rinaldi and board member Andrea Lo were in attendance. School board members Antoinette Funk and Mélanie Salins were absent.

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – a time to raise awareness of what remains a stigmatized and often taboo subject.

“We use this month to change public perception, spread hope and share lifesaving information with those affected by suicide,” NAMI says. “Our goal is to ensure that individuals, friends and families have access to the resources they need to discuss suicide prevention and seek help.

According to the NAMI, suicidal thoughts, like mental health issues, can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background, and should not be considered normal. Such thoughts are often the result of an untreated mental health issue and often indicate more serious issues, according to the organization.

Ballenger invited WCPS Director of Special Services Michael Hirsch to highlight for board members the ongoing suicide prevention awareness efforts and programs in the school division.

“Even though mental health organizations recognize September as Suicide Awareness Month, working together to build our collective understanding of suicide awareness in order to prevent it happens every day” in the school division, Hirsch said. “And we do it every day.”

For example, WCPS Special Services staff on Thursday, September 8 worked with Skyline High School staff to review warning signs, risk factors, protective factors, and various intervention strategies. against suicide applicable to school personnel, said Hirsch. the school board.

“Once we get feedback from Skyline High School staff…we’ll be rolling it out to all of our high school staff this month,” Hirsch said.

Additionally, WCPS and its Special Services Division work with the Warren County Community Health Coalition – also known as the Warren Coalition – a nonprofit agency established in 1994 to help fill gaps in health care and substance abuse awareness in the community.

The Warren Coalition began under the Warren Memorial Hospital as an outreach project, but has since grown and was incorporated in 2001. Currently located in the Warren County Community Center, the coalition says it s strives to make Warren County a safe, healthy, and medicated place. -free community through the many programs it offers.

Together, the coalition and WCPS offer “a whole range of resilience activities” throughout the year, Hirsch said. Most recently, they collaborated on Rock & Stroll, an event held in May at Warren County High School designed to encourage kids and tweens to make healthy choices and give them the reasons for those healthy choices. Hirsch said the event is now called Fun Fest, which will be held at “almost every school” in the division.

“The goal is to teach children resilience and prosocial coping skills, as well as to help them make good, healthy decisions,” Hirsch explained.

Hirsch (above on podium) also told school board members (from left to right on stage) Lo, Pence and Rinaldi that WCPS counselors and administrators have received “significant training” in awareness and suicide prevention at the end of the 2021-2022 school year from the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services and Northwestern Community Services.

The Department of State administers Virginia’s public mental health, developmental disability, and addictions services system through 40 locally and regionally operated community service boards, which serve children and adults who have or are at risk of illness. mental, emotional, developmental or substance use disorders.

Northwestern Community Services is a behavioral health agency with administrative offices in Front Royal, Virginia. The agency offers a range of outpatient, case management, day support, residential and crisis programs designed to improve the quality of life for children and adults affected by emotional problems/behavioral disorders, illness mental illness, substance abuse, intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities.

The training will be offered again soon to new school counselors and administrators, according to Hirsch.

“Our approach to suicide prevention is not limited to the month of September,” Hirsch said. “This subject is thought about every day.”

For more information, here is a list of some resources:

• Northwestern Community Services: Information, services and appointments can be made by calling the Warren County Clinic at 540-636-2931; the Winchester Area Clinic at 540-667-8888; the Shenandoah County Clinic at 540-459-5180; or the County Clinic Page at 540-743-4548.

• If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 540-635-4804 or 1-800-342-1462.

• The CONCERN hotline: 540-635-4357 (Warren County); 540-459-4742 (Shenandoah County); and 540-667-0145 (Frederick County, Winchester and Clarke County).

• Confidential Substance Use Helpline: 1-833-626-1490.

• North West Community Services Council Prevention Service: 540 459-5180, ext. 3046.

• Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-784-2433.

• National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

• NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-6264.

Click here to watch the Warren County School Board meeting on September 7, 2022.

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