Wisconsin DOJ launches tool to prevent suicides in schools

Published: Sep. 10, 2020 at 4:57 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of School Safety is launching a new tool designed to prevent suicide in schools, just in time for World Suicide Prevention Day on Thursday.

The tool called, “Speak up, Speak out” allows students, teachers and staff members to submit anonymous reports if they are are noticing concerning behavior from a classmate. The tool can also be used to submit reports of bullying, threats or any other safety concerns at school.

“What this provides is an additional resource and a way to report anonymously so if students do not have someone they feel comfortable talking with they can still get the help they need,” says Attorney General Josh Kaul.

Once a tip is reported, trained analysts will decide the next steps. Staff members have been designated at schools to handle these situations and Kaul says law enforcement would be asked to intervene if warranted. He says it was modeled after similar tip lines in use in other states which have proven successful.

Kaul says the new tool has been in the works for years but will be useful especially during this pandemic.

“There are more people dealing with mental health issues right now because of the isolation and quarantines so there is a greater need for those resources right now,” Kaul says. “Another thing is the trusted adult that a student would typically reach out to, be it a teacher coach or principal, students have contact with fewer of those adults on a regular basis.”

According to HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Suicide Prevention Instructor Alyssa Van Duyse, the pandemic can take a toll on mental health, since many peoples' daily routines and lifestyles have been interrupted.

“Those types of things may cause people to feel more isolated and we start to get depressed about that and that is completely normal but it is when we have a hard time managing that depression or anxiety that we have to seek help,” Van Duyse says.

Van Duyse says if there is concern about a loved one, it is best to be blunt.

“Explain to them, ‘Out of love, out of respect, I really want to know how you are doing, these are the changes I see in you and that is why I am questioning what is going on’ but really the best question is, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?’"

She says to watch for a change in personality including a child no longer showing interest in school or friends, or an outgoing person suddenly becoming reserved.

Van Duyse says for those feeling isolated, the most important thing to do is find ways to connect like going outside, taking a walk in the neighborhood, socially distanced visits with neighbors or calling a friend.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call the help line at 211.

You can also find a full list of Wisconsin suicide hotlines here.

Resources are also available here for parents concerned about their children.

To learn even more about suicide, click here.

Copyright 2020 WEAU. All rights reserved.

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