County takes steps toward suicide prevention

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VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Once we hit the year 2000, suicides started spiking across the country.

The CDC says it’s now a leading cause of death.

Several agencies in Vermilion County are taking an active approach to raising mental health awareness, and preventing teen suicide.

Through training and positive programming, leaders of these efforts say they’ve seen a difference.

More than 2,000 people got teen mental health/suicide prevention training from the Vermilion County Health Department during the past three years, alone.

There’s also at least one Vermilion County school in which students are getting extra support from their peers.

Jim russell joined the Vermilion County Health Department several years ago.

It was around that time he got a call from a colleague, who was concerned, because four recent graduates of Oakwood High School had recently committed suicide.

Then, they considered this…

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death between people ages 15-24 in the U.S.,” said Russell.

Together, they decided to create a training program, so people could learn how to take those at risk under their wing, before they take their own life.

“There’s a lot of study being looked into why, but nobody’s found one simple solution because there isn’t one simple solution.”

Jim Russell, Vermilion County Health Department

That’s one of the main ideas Russell tries to get across.

It’s not about why, but what the warning signs are and how to get involved.

“I’m strong believer in the earlier we can recognize that there’s a problem, and start finding a solution to that problem, the better off everybody is,” said Russell.

Over at Oakwood High School, staff members practice the power of positivity.

Student Council advisor Teresa Cooper brought the group’s president’s idea to life.

“He wanted to decorate parts of the school in a way that would improve students’ day, and have a more positive mindset,” said Cooper.

The bathrooms were painted with inspirational messages. Then something even bigger was born.

“We did a whole mental health themed week, so they gave away goody bags with mental health supplies, and each day we did announcements about a mental health misconception,” said Cooper. “The students have really embraced that they can help, and they can make a difference.”

Cooper said at the end, many students they reached felt grateful.

We also reached out to Danville High School, to ask what programs they have in place.

A couple of things they have include required training for each staff member for prevention strategies, and a partnership with Crosspoint and Rosecrance for additional counseling as needed.

One takeaway from the mental health training we want to share with you deals with approach.

Russell encourages using “I” language, instead of “you” language.

For example, instead of saying “you are late to work, what’s going on?”

Say…”I noticed you came in late today…I was wondering if everything is okay.”

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