The Norman Transcript

September 28, 2012

NPS works to prevent suicide, bullying

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — NPS stresses communication in suicide prevention

As the state reels from the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Stillwater student Cade Poulos, school officials are continuing to implement strict anti-bullying policies and emphasize the importance of communication in suicide prevention.

“The Norman school district has an ongoing and very proactive approach to creating a safe environment for students and teachers, and it is constantly reinforcing a very clear anti-bullying policy with extensive training and procedures for teachers and administrators,” said Sharon Heatly, NPS director of guidance and counseling.

The crux of the anti-bullying policy? Reporting incidents.

“NPS stresses the importance of reporting any and all incidents of bullying,” said Shelly Hickman, NPS community relations coordinator. “We cannot mitigate situations or problems without knowing they exist.”

According to Heatly, the district is working on a new section of the NPS website, dedicated to addressing safety issues and providing information on bullying resources.

While bullying is a major priority, it is only one aspect of promoting students’ overall emotional well-being, particularly in the area of suicide prevention.

“It’s so important to be attentive and even simply ask a child, ‘Are you OK,’” Heatly said. “Middle and high school-aged students are going through some difficult transitions and need to feel like they belong and are cared for.”

For adults or students who are concerned about a child or peer, Heatly said the best course of action is to notify a child’s parents and report concerning behavior to parents, teachers, school counselors or other authority figures right away.

“In counselor training, the two questions we ask children who exhibit concerning behavior are a) Do you want to hurt yourself and b) Do you have a plan to end your life,” Heatly said. “If the answer to either question is yes, then immediate treatment is necessary. Studies show that asking these questions does not lead to suicide. Rather, it’s the best way to reach out and make sure those in need get fast help.”

Though students today face emotional trials of all shapes and sizes, Norman students and parents may rest assured that their district and community cares.

“We have ongoing training for our teachers and tremendous resources in place where students can receive immediate treatment if necessary. We have to be vigilant about this and keep encouraging students to step forward,” Heatly said.


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