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PAWS Together Article 1: Suicide Awareness for Kearney Youth

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PAWS Together: Article on Suicide Awareness

PAWS Together: Suicide Awareness

Welcome to the first PAWS Together communication from KSD. This is a new communication we will send monthly. The goal of PAWS Together is to serve as a means to pause for a moment to help our Bulldog community learn more about a variety of topics that may be affecting students in our district, either at school or at home.

The topic of the first edition is in conjunction with Suicide Awareness Month. We hope you find this communication informational and helpful.

It’s Happening Here: Clay County and Kearney Youth Suicide and Depression

By Dr. Angie Currey, Assistant Superintendent of Special Programs
Email Dr. Currey at

As part of Suicide Awareness Month, it is important to know the facts around suicide prevention, particularly those within Clay County. Each year Tri County Mental Health partners with school districts across Clay County to gather information about depression and suicide. Kearney School District’s results from the 2017 school year indicated the need for additional support to a population of students struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts. It is important now more than ever to bring this topic to the attention of parents and community members, to work together to meet the needs of our youth.

While there are still questions about what leads an adolescent to turn to suicide, there is a lot more information about the myths and facts about suicide than ever before. One of the greatest myths is that if we talk about suicide, it will happen. Research shows us over and over again, that this is not true (Gould et al., 2007). We also know that no single event causes an individual to attempt to take their own life (SMH, 2017). Instead, there are a variety of risk factors, including, but not limited to:

  • Behavioral Health including depressive disorders, substance abuse, etc.
  • Personal characteristics such as hopelessness, social isolation, etc.
  • Adverse life circumstances such as: bullying, history of abuse, exposure to peer suicide
  • Family characteristics including: family history of suicide, parental divorce, family history of mental health disorders, etc.
  • Environmental triggers such as: access to weapons, limited access to mental health care, etc.
  • Students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) are four times as likely to attempt suicide

How is KSD Helping?
The district has established a three tiered model to address suicide awareness. The first tier includes a referral to a school counselor or the district social worker, if concerns are present. In addition, the district has adopted the Signs of Suicide program through Tri County Mental Health, which involves screening all 8-12th grade students for depression and possible suicidal ideation. Students are provided instruction on how to Act, Care, and Tell if they are aware of someone else who may be suicidal, as part of the program. In addition, both teachers and parents are provided training about depression and suicide prevention.

In the next tier, if concerns are present, the school counselor or district social worker will conduct a comprehensive risk assessment. Our school counselors have been trained extensively through their graduate programs and additional trainings on how to complete risk assessments. Based on the results of the assessment and their overall impression of the situation, the counselor will determine if additional information is needed. If that is the case, the counselor will contact Tri County Mental Health for a phone interview. The intake counselor from Tri County will determine if the situation warrants additional action.

What Can You Do at Home to Help?
The key to suicide prevention is awareness and understanding of the myths and facts. The warning signs include, but are not limited to:

  • Risky behavior, recklessness, non-suicidal self injury
  • Increase in substance abuse
  • Decreased interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal for long periods of times
  • Being a burden to others
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Saying goodbye

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, parents can do the following to help prevent youth suicide:

  • Know the risks and warning signs
  • Take threats seriously
  • Get help immediately if there are concerns
  • Access school and community supports
  • Maintain communication with the school

For the complete article go to:

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, there are resources available. Please see below for a list within the Kansas City metro area.

Resources For Help:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.TALK (8255)
Synergy Service Crisis Line 816.741.8700
Tri County Mental Health Crisis Line 1.888.279.8188
Trevor Line (LGBTQ) 1.866.488.7386
Crisis Text Line – Text LISTEN to 741-741
Crittenton Children’s Hospital – Accepts children ages 4-18. Address: 10918 Elm Avenue, Kansas City, MO 64134; 816.765.6600
Marillac – Accepts children ages 4-18. Address: 8000 W. 127th St, Overland Park, KS 662139; Phone –  913.951-4300 (8 am-9 pm); after hours line 913-951-4444
Research Psychiatric Hospital – Accepts children ages 12-18. Address: 2323 East 63rd St, Kansas City, MO 64130. Phone: 816.235.8162
KVC – Accepts children ages 6-18. Address: 4300 Brenner Dr. KC, KS 66104; Phone – 1.866.582.2273; 913.621.5753
Two Rivers – Accepts children ages 5 and up. Address: 5121 Raytown Rd. KC, MO 64133; Phone – 816.382.6300. ask for admissions


Gould, M.S., Marrocco, F.A., Kleinman, M., Thomas, J.G., Mostkoff, K., Cote, J., Davies, M. (2007). Evaluating Iatrogenic risk of youth suicide screening programs. American Medical Association, 293(13),1635-43.

National Association of School Psychologists. Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for PArents and Educators. Accessed: September 13, 2017 from .

Screening for Mental Health, Inc. (2017). Training for Parents and Community Members: SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program.

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