PEI

Suicide awareness program seeing success, says CMHA on P.E.I.

The Canadian Mental Health Association is stepping into classrooms in Prince Edward Island this week to talk to Grade 9 students about suicide.

'That is success, when young people are reaching out,' says program facilitator

'We safely explore the topic of suicide with young people,' says Pat Doyle with the Canadian Mental Health Association in P.E.I. (Shutterstock)

The Canadian Mental Health Association is stepping into classrooms in Prince Edward Island this week to talk to Grade 9 students about suicide.

Signals of Suicide is an 80-minute awareness and prevention program that includes a video and student discussions that CMHA has been delivering in schools for several years. 

In some cases it's something that they haven't talked about before.— Pat Doyle

"Through that, we safely explore the topic of suicide with young people," said program facilitator Pat Doyle.

The program teaches youth to be more effective helpers, to recognize a person at risk of suicide and the steps to take to help.

'Something they haven't talked about'

It's a weighty topic for which CMHA prepares teachers and parents, Doyle said. 

'What we generally use to measure is how much help-seeking happens as a result,' says Doyle. (CBC)

"We want to make sure our school counsellors, for example, have suicide intervention training, that parents and students are aware of this coming," she said.

Doyle said in some cases, it's something that hasn't been talked about before, and concerns can be dealt with prior to the presentation.

The program was developed by the Vancouver Crisis Centre, Doyle said, and was adapated by CMHA for P.E.I. She said it has changed over the years. 

"Every year we're modifying the program based on what students are telling us they want to learn about suicide, about mental health," she said. 

"And also about what current research is telling us about how we talk about suicide with young people safely." 

'Opening the door'

Youth suicide rates have remained "fairly consistent," Doyle said — so how does CMHA know if the program is working?

"What we generally use to measure is how much help-seeking happens as a result," she said. 

At the end of the session, students fill out a feedback form that asks if they would like to talk to someone as a result of the discussion. 

"We're opening the door, offering them an opportunity to get that support or talk to somebody about what has been troubling them." 

And she said students do reach out to counsellors and others to talk about themselves or others.

"That is success, when young people are reaching out." 

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With files from CBC News: Compass

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