Chicago School Social Worker Jerry Ciffone featured in Chicago Tribune article.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
After six student suicides in seven years, School District 303 in St. Charles has decided it's time to confront the problem head-on. More than 200 people have attended two "summit" meetings on suicide prevention, looking for ways they can take a more active approach to preventing deaths.
Supt. Don Schlomann said the conventional wisdom of his earlier years was that if adults discuss suicides with teens, deaths were likely to follow. "I've learned that is a fallacy," he said. "The research shows that the more you talk about it, the better."
Six students from St. Charles East and North High Schools were on hand last Wednesday to discuss what the high school and community can do. The message came across loud and clear: Many students aren't sure how to reach the resources available to them, either from their school or the community at large.
The pressures of high school can quickly mount, the teens said, with schools and grades and relationships combining to make students feel overwhelmed. Most often, students who are contemplating suicide are dealing with family issues such as divorce, death of a friend or family member, or living with depressed family members, said Jerry Ciffone, a St. Charles resident and social worker at South Elgin High School who spoke to the crowd about prevention.
Ciffone said schools should consider presentations by social workers for all incoming 9th graders. Structured classroom time on mental health and suicide should be part of all health classes, he said, and easy access to counselors and social workers is crucial. Ciffone goes so far as to show his students pictures of his door and secretary, so they feel comfortable navigating their way to his office.
Schlomann said he can't promise that holding meetings and devising a new action plan will mean no more suicides in District 303. But the desire of the larger community to prevent more teen deaths is a good start, he said.