As we near the end of our first month of school and October draws near (already?!?), I am very pleased with the smooth start to our school year. Thanks to all students, staff, and families for a successful beginning!
First, we hope that you will join at 7 pm this Thursday, October 2nd, for Back to School Night.
Second, while I want to celebrate the start of this school year, I also need to acknowledge and respond to our very tough 2013-14 school year. This is a challenge, and it was difficult to write this letter.
The Newton community continues to feel the profound loss of three high school students last year. October brings the first two anniversaries, and we will keep these students in our hearts and minds throughout this year and beyond. We also continue to work with local and national experts to design our response – and the most important step is to identify and support the students and families who were most affected by last year’s losses. You may find your child experiencing sadness and moodiness, and if you see signs of upset or concerning behavior we encourage you to reach out to your child’s guidance counselor or another trusted adult.
In addition, your child may be interested in channeling his/her energies by connecting with other students through one of several student clubs discussing mental health and/or other issues. Our Club Advisor this year is Mr. Chris Hardiman, a Goldrick guidance counselor (firstname.lastname@example.org), and he (or any of the guidance counselors) can help you and your child find a club or activity that fits almost any interest.
As you heard last week from Superintendent Fleishman, we are increasing our focus this year on the safety and emotional well being of our students and staff. There are many complementary mental health initiatives taking place in our high schools.
Our main mental health initiative this year is SOS Signs of Suicide, an internationally-recognized, evidence-based program for secondary students to identify depression and suicidality in themselves and their peers. Last spring our senior class participated in the program which includes a presentation and video followed by a short screening to identify at-risk students. Both high schools found the program to be useful in finding students in need of further conversations with counseling staff. This school year both high schools will offer this program to all 9-12 graders. Newton South plans for senior SOS training to take place in English classes October 14-20, juniors in November, sophomores in January and February and freshmen in Late February/early March.
Adults trained in SOS will be in every class when the curriculum is presented to students. We highly recommend you allow your child to be screened. Some students, based on answers given on the screening form, will have a conversation that same day with a school mental health professional. A few students will also be randomly selected for follow-up questions so that we can learn about student response to the program. We encourage you to attend a parent meeting on October 8th at 7 PM in the Seasholes Auditorium at Newton South to further discuss the SOS program. Newton North will also host a parent night on Wednesday, October 15 at 7pm in the Film Lecture Hall to discuss the SOS program, so if you miss us on October 8th you will be most welcome at North. You will also receive a letter later in the year further explaining the program and providing options for your child.
Below you will find additional community programs that might be of interest.
Newton Cares – If you are interested in joining in on the conversation, I encourage you to consider participating in Newton Cares: A Coalition for Suicide Prevention and Mental Health, a partnership of the city, schools, community members and mental health professionals. Email for more information.
Understanding the Impact of Suicide – A community workshop series presented by John R. Jordan, Ph.D. A series of free workshops for suicide loss survivors. Seating is limited so register in advance.
- October 21 (7-9pm) WORKSHOP 1 – Understanding suicide and its impact on individuals and families
- November 4 (7-9pm) WORKSHOP 2 – Individual and community self-care after suicide
- November 18 (7-9pm) WORKSHOP 3 – Facilitated discussion of the impact of suicide
Online Mental Health Evaluation – http://screening.mentalhealthscreening.org/NEWTON
QPR Suicide Prevention Training – Learn how to respond to someone in distress. Question, Persuade, Refer. QPR is a simple educational program that teaches ordinary citizens how to recognize a mental health emergency and how to get a person at risk the help they need. Newton Cares will provide QPR suicide prevention trainings to all interested individuals and groups. Contact Newton Cares if you are interested in training.
Participants will learn how to:
- Recognize the warning signs of suicide
- Offer hope
- Get help & refer
Thank you, as always, for your partnership. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any of your concerns.