NEOSHO, MO – “Gatekeeping” is a process in which information is dispersed, and it can mean all the difference in suicide prevention.
In fact, mental health experts say students and peers are great gatekeepers for each other in knowing the signs of a mental health crisis.
That’s the next part in our series, “The Suicide Crisis: Prevention, Information, and Awareness.”
“Not having a kid is not okay. I can’t do that.” Says Ann Landrum, Neosho HS Health Educator.
Health educator Ann Landrum says Neosho High School, like several local high schools, has been working hard to prevent suicide among students.
“When you watch a kid have to say goodbye to their buddy, and then all of a sudden the lunchroom is different, gym class is different, math class is different, English is different, it’s a lot.” Says Landrum.
The “Signs of Suicide” curriculum and a “Trauma-Informed Schools” program have been implemented in the district over the past several years.
“An accident or an illness is an accident or an illness and it’s devastating, because you can’t fix that. But I always look at, when we lose somebody, what in the world did we miss?” Says Landrum.
“We train children, because, what we’ve also realized is that in addition to teachers, and principals, and the staff at the school, the students are also more likely to talk to one another.” Says Stephen McCullough, Urgent Behavioral Solutions Director.
What McCullough at the Freeman Health System Urgent Behavior Solutions is talking about is known as gatekeeping.
“The goal of the gatekeeper is to realize that someone is struggling. Engage, that we let them know that we care about them. And then we bring in other resources to help them get the treatment that they need. With kids we teach them how to reach out to trusted adults.” Says McCullough.
“This kid is living this life and this kid is doing this here, and we want it to be the same, and that’s not the way it is. It’s not even that way for adults a lot anymore. There’s a lot of heavy burdens carried in a lot of places and last year, you really saw it come out in people.” Says Landrum.
And when life gets overwhelming, like we saw this past year during the pandemic, students can be the gatekeepers among their peers to watch for signs of depression and the risk of suicide.
“We see a lot of kids reaching out after the program. When we go through the program we do have the children identify whether they’d like to talk to somebody about themselves or a friend, somebody they might be concerned about.” Says McCullough.
“We have to identify them as soon as we can, and we have to give them some skills so they can get through this stuff called life.” Says Landrum.
So that teachers like Landrum don’t have to watch their students say goodbye to another classmate.
“There’s just no excuse not to take care of children, and not to value children, because that’s our future anyway. So why not give them that background to be better? And these kids have embraced it.” Says Landrum.
If you know anyone struggling with their mental health and they need someone to talk to, we urge you to call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-TALK