By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
A program for identifying teens with suicidal tendencies will be offered for the first time at Camanche schools this fall.
Bridgeview Community Mental Health Center’s TeenScreen program received a grant from United Way of Clinton County that will allow the program to continue at several local schools as well as expand to include Camanche Middle School.
“I’m very excited to meet with new students,” program coordinator Jocelyn Meyer said. “It’s so great to be able to reach out to more communities.”
Funding from the grant begins on Oct. 1 and goes until Sept. 30 of next year. TeenScreen, the survey and screening process that evaluates students to measure their risk of suicidal or troubling tendencies, will now be offered to seventh and eighth graders at Camanche Middle School. Parents will receive information on the new program at parent-teacher conferences in November. Students cannot participate in the program without written consent from a parent or guardian.
Meyer says she encourages all parents to allow their kids to participate in the program, even if they think there is no chance they could be suicidal.
“They don’t tell you everything,” Meyer said. “You could have no idea they feel this way. This program cannot hurt them what-so-ever. Either they are at risk and can now get treatment or they aren’t.”
The city of Camanche has struggled with a history of suicides, many of which have been teens. During the past school year, one teen committed suicide around Christmas followed by another teen suicide this summer.
Recently, several citizens formed a group called Speak Out Against Suicide to help the community cope with losses as well as those who are in danger of suicide. Meyer spoke at one of the group’s meetings to offer them guidance on the signs and symptoms of suicide.
“We had a very healthy discussion,” Meyer said. “Some of the stories are heartbreaking, but it reminds us why we do what we do.”
With the grant, Bridgeview will also be able to continue programs at Central High School in DeWitt, Northeast High School in Goose Lake, Calamus-Wheatland High School and Clinton High School.
Bridgeview’s TeenScreen Schools and Communities program started in 2007, as part of the larger TeenScreen National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University. This program was created to address the problems of unidentified mental illness and suicide risk in youth. It was developed in 1991 in response to research revealing that 90 percent of youths who die by suicide were suffering from a diagnosable mental illness at the time of their deaths, and that 63 percent experience symptoms for at least a year prior to their deaths.
More than 560 students have been screened in Clinton County through the program in the last five years, including 258 at Central High School, 104 at Northeast High School, 103 at Calamus-Wheatland High School and 98 at Clinton High School.
For more information on the program, visit TeenScreen.org or contact Meyer at 243-5633.