I am writing to update you on many of the initiatives taking place over the next several weeks related to mental health and wellness for both students and families. The City of Newton and our school are sponsoring a number of activities in the coming weeks. In the past several weeks, we have continued to speak with nationally recognized experts in the Boston area and have consulted with these experts, as we develop both short- and long-term plans to ensure that our strategies are as effective as possible. Additionally, we have consulted with other communities across the country that have experienced similar tragedies.
With the help of Riverside Trauma Center, today we trained our mental health, counseling and wellness staff on a program for students named Signs of Suicide (SoS), a nationally recognized research-based program. Following the training, these educators will present workshops to all students at both high schools in the weeks following April vacation. Please note we will also hold a parent meeting prior to these workshops, so that you will be familiar with the content that will be shared with our students. In addition, parents will be given the option to opt their child/children out of this training. We will share more information about the specifics of these trainings within the next few weeks.
We are also establishing a process for students who are in need of support, as a result of the tragedies, to participate in coping groups. The schedule for these student coping groups to be held at locations around the city, including the two high schools, will be announced next week.
We are aware that some students have expressed a desire to discuss suicide and mental health in a larger forum. There will be an opportunity to do so on March 26, when Kevin Breel, a twenty-year-old mental health activist and comedian, will speak at the Mayor’s Youth Summit: http://www.newtonma.gov/gov/health/humansvcs/youth_summit.asp.
Throughout the past several months, we have also worked closely with the City, as we address issues of mental health and suicide prevention. The Mayor, with the approval of the Aldermen, recently allocated $100,000 in order to further support teen mental health and suicide prevention. The City has also created Newton Cares; a Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health. Newton Cares will soon provide training for community members to become familiar with suicide awareness and will serve as a clearing house for resources and information related to mental health and suicide prevention. http://www.newtonma.gov/documents/TakingCareofOurselvesandOurTeens.pdf
In addition, a lecture series with parents of teens focused on topics of wellness, stress management and communication has been developed by the Newton Free Library and Youth Services. Please find additional information about this series here: http://www.newtonma.gov/documents/AnOpenConversation.pdf
We will continue to keep you well informed as we work to educate students on mental health issues, provide them with access to resources and develop additional prevention measures. Thank you so much for your ongoing support and partnership during a challenging year.