Palmyra Schools initiate suicide prevention curriculum

The number of young teenagers committing suicide is on the rise and that's why Palmyra Schools are looking at suicide prevention.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reported in 2009 that suicide was the fourth leading cause of death in 5 to 14 year olds and third in 15 to 24 year olds.

In some cases, warning signs are overlooked or go unrecognized by teacher and family members.

"With some of the statistics that are out there this is a problem nationwide," Eric Churchwell, Superintendent of Palmyra R-1 Schools said. "We just want to be proactive and hopefully give our kids and their parents resources that they can go out and get help."

The school system partnered with Communities Healing Adolescent Depression and Suicide or CHADS Coalition to combat youth suicides with the Signs of Suicide program.

The suicide prevention curriculum will provide training to teachers and counselors to recognize and report signs of depression and suicidal tendencies.

"They are trained professionals and use a research-based assessment tool to assess students and adolescents on depression and suicidal thoughts," Churchwell said.

The program will evaluate students in seventh grade through their senior year of high school.

Each student will undergo an assessment at least twice in their educational career at Palmyra.

Kendra Tiemann is a guidance counselor at the Palmyra High School and s he correlates the rise in youth suicides with advances in social networking, which is often accompanied by a lack of communication.

"I think with our social media and our communication, our social networking, we have cell phones and Facebook and we falsely convince ourselves we are staying connected but we are missing that face to face and non verbal signs," Tiemann said.

Knowing the signs of depression are key to youth suicide prevention.

Click here for a more complete list of the warning signs from that include:

- Talking or writing about death or suicide.- Withdrawing from family and friends.- Feeling strong anger or rage.- Experiencing dramatic mood changes.- Exhibiting a change in personality.- Acting impulsively.- Losing interest in most activities.- Experiencing a change in sleeping habits.- Experiencing a change in eating habits.- Losing interest in most activities.- Performing poorly at work or in school.

"I know now that we have something in place so now after the fact we won't look back and think, how come we didn't see that sign?," Tiemann said.

The SOS program will be the link between teen and suicide prevention resources.