Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Alabama children ages 10-14; and the third leading cause of death – soon to be second – for ages 15-24. Yet 90% of youth who made a suicide attempt have a treatable psychiatric disorder.
In April 2016, a task force representing virtually every mental health organization in Madison County – as well as the Huntsville City, Madison City and Madison County School Systems, and private schools – was established to address the increasing incidence of suicide, and the urgent need to increase awareness about mental illness. The objectives for the collaborative program, SPEAK, are: Suicide Prevention, Empowerment, Awareness and Knowledge. With this shared goal, the task force has launched a comprehensive, age-appropriate awareness and education program that is addressing not only suicide, but also feelings and self-esteem, bullying, depression and anxiety, and social media.
Partnering with the public and private schools, the SPEAK task force provides classroom instruction and training for the following:
- School Health Professionals (counselors, social workers, nurses, educators, and school resource officers) – 225 school health professionals attended the first suicide awareness conference on January 13
- SPEAK Student Ambassador program for high school students in 9th through 12th grades
- Classroom instruction for students in 8th and 10th grades (Huntsville City and Madison County School Systems) and 7th and 10th grades (Madison City Schools)
- All K-12 teachers via faculty meeting training *
- Parents via PTA meetings and community events
- Physicians – via continuing education seminars
* The Jason Flatt Act, passed by the State of Alabama Legislature in May 2016, requires all Alabama teachers to receive annual training in youth suicide awareness and prevention in order to maintain certification. The SPEAK task force has pledged to provide this training to all teachers in Madison County, at no charge.
Through a partnership with Leadership Huntsville/Madison County Class 30, a suicide prevention app has been developed that provides resources for youth/teens, teachers, parents, physicians and the community-at-large. The app includes links for warning signs, what to say, LGBTQ teens, veterans, and resources for seeking help. The app is available to download for free for both Android and Apple products. Learn more about the app from WHNT!
SPEAK is a collaborative project of Huntsville Hospital Foundation ▪ Huntsville Hospital ▪ American Foundation for Suicide Prevention ▪ Bradford Health Services ▪ Crisis Services of North Alabama ▪ Decatur-Morgan West Behavioral Medical Center ▪ Huntsville City Schools ▪ Little Orange Fish ▪ Madison City Schools ▪ Madison County Schools ▪ National Alliance on Mental Illness/North Alabama ▪ Nova Center for Youth & Family ▪ University of Alabama in Huntsville ▪ Wellstone Behavioral Health