H.E.L.P.: Helping Every Living Person
a suicide prevention curriculum for high school
"My students always excel on the Classroom Based Assessment as a result of the H.E.L.P. curriculum!"
(Family & Consumer Sciences Teacher, Lake Stevens School District)
Unlike sexuality education, the State of Washington does NOT mandate suicide prevention education, although every week in our state 2 youth between the ages of 10 and 24 die by suicide and over 17 more attempt suicide. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of 8 adolescents may have depression, a key risk factor for suicide.
Imagine a classroom of about 30 tenth graders. The most recent Washington State Healthy Youth Survey revealed that approximately:
- 9 were depressed,
- 5 seriously considered suicide, and
- 3 attempted suicide.
Furthermore, out of that class of 30, only 7 said they were somewhat or very likely to seek help for themselves if feeling depressed or suicidal. There were 5 who would still be somewhat or very unlikely to seek help for a depressed or suicidal friend.
Since we understand that teens typically confide in other teens rather than adults, H.E.L.P. empowers youth to feel confident in both giving help and seeking help.
H.E.L.P. Curriculum Overview
H.E.L.P. -- Helping Every Living Person -- Depression and Suicide Prevention Curriculum -- is an evaluated classroom curriculum appropriate for 9th-11th grade students. Developed by the Youth Suicide Prevention Program (YSPP), it is based specifically on the American Association of Suicidology (AAS) “Guidelines for School-based Suicide Prevention Programs”.
H.E.L.P. is considered best practice in the field of suicide prevention. It is listed on the Best Practices Registry of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention/Suicide Prevention Resource Center. This designation is reserved for suicide prevention programs that have met adherence to current program development standards and recommendations in the field.
H.E.L.P. consists of four 45-minute lessons designed for regular classroom teachers to implement using PowerPoint slides Topics include stress and healthy coping skills, depression and its impact on teen’s lives, the causes and warning signs of suicide, and skills to intervene with a possibly suicidal friend. Activities call for discussion and problem solving and involve issues that students currently dealing with, such as keeping confidences.
Suggested First Steps...
Suicide prevention education is most effective when part of a comprehensive, school-wide approach. We encourage teachers to follow this checklist of activities before teaching LOOK LISTEN LINK or H.E.L.P.:
- Check with the principal or school counselor to see if there is a written crisis plan that includes protocols for responding to suicidal behavior.
- Remind teachers and school staff (via memo or short – 5 minute – announcement) of their responsibilities to take a student’s suicide risk seriously and to refer to the school counselor (or other identified personnel).
- If within the past 18 months there has not been an educational presentation for faculty and staff on recognizing the warning signs for depression and suicide and the steps for intervening, you should encourage the principal to make that a priority.
- Check with the nurse and school counselor to confirm that community resources for suicidal behavior have been identified and that they are willing to make those referrals.
- Check with the PTA president about scheduling a parent education program on stress, depression, self-harm and/or suicide prevention.
Paraclete Press partnered with YSPP to produce the video, ”A Cry for Help” that accompanies our high school curriculum, H.E.L.P. (Helping Every Living Person). The film features young people from Yakima County, WA who understand the warning signs and steps for helping a friend at risk of suicide. As you view the film, you will notice many of the students wearing their campaign shirts, eager to break the stigma that wants us to believe that it is wrong to talk about suicide.
Lesson 1: Stress and Depression
Provides students with a framework for how stress and depression impact the lives of teens and how to address the issue in their lives of those they care about
Discusses the warning signs of suicide so as to provide students a framework for understanding what to look for in youth who are at risk for suicide
Lesson 3: Suicide Intervention Skills
Identifies what is helpful when intervening with a friend at risk of suicide and identifies specific intervention skills
Lesson 4: Suicide Intervention Skills Practice / Role-Plays
Uses facilitated role-play as a way to practice intervention skills and identify solutions to obstacles (real or otherwise) that could get in the way of helping.
H.E.L.P in Washington State
H.E.L.P. is a component of the Washington State Coordinated School Health model, which is a multi-disciplinary approach to students' well-being and readiness to learn.
In fact, recent research shows that a student being depressed for at least 2 weeks in the past year is correlated to academic risk. See the new report here.
H.E.L.P. thoroughly prepares Washington State high school students to meet the OSPI Classroom Based Assessment (CBA) in health entitled “Dear Stressed and Depressed”.
An actual incident (names have been changed)
~ Lily was constantly saying things like, "I can't handle it anymore" and "Nobody cares about me". One day at school she wrote a note to her friend Bryon sharing her feelings regarding an incident that had happened recently. In reply, Bryon wrote back and asked Lily if she was thinking of suicide. Lily replied with a "yes". After class, Bryon gave the note to his teacher who turned it over to a counselor. The counselor called home and Lily is now in counseling and feeling much better. The health teacher was quite amazed that Bryon had used the actual intervention steps that he had been taught in the H.E.L.P. curriculum.
~ Great resources and activities provided. This was a nicely contained curriculum resource with good, solid information and resources to utilize.
~ The repetitive nature of the curriculum seemed especially helpful for alternative school students. They have poor attention spans and not all attended class each day - yet they still left the unit knowing what to do and feeling confident.
~ Practicing how to go about helping a friend has definitely made a difference. Specifically, one student's story that stands out was Ben's phone call from Shelly. She was depressed and self medicating for months. When Ben got the phone call, he quickly recalled his lesson from the H.E.L.P. curriculum. As he was on his cell phone, he continued to talk to Shelly and not allow her to be alone. At the same time, he called 911 from his home phone and got help on the way. Talking to Shelly now, she would have taken her life that night if Ben would not have called 911. The medics got there in time to save her life.
- Charisa Moore, Health Education, Bainbridge Island HS
- teacher resources
- lesson plans
- student worksheets
For any questions or for more information, please contact YSPP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Middle School
LOOK LISTEN LINK is YSPP’s complementary middle school level curriculum suitable for 6th - 8th grade. Click here for more information about LOOK LISTEN LINK.