The New “S Talk”
As part of this year’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, UF Health Psychiatry hopes to make room for a new “S talk” in the classrooms of Alachua County Public Schools.
Leadership of UF Health Psychiatry’s Partners in Adolescent Lifestyle Support Talk, Heal, Reach Out, Include, Validate and Encourage, or PALS THRIVE, a teen support program, wants youth to know the warning signs of suicide and mental illness resources available within the community.
PALS THRIVE is a three-pronged program consisting of education, leadership and treatment. Its motto, “No One Sits Alone,” reflects its mission of preventing suicide and fostering an inclusive environment in schools.
In a partnership with the PALS THRIVE program and the Alachua County Crisis Center, the Alachua County School Board is piloting Hope Squad, a peer-to-peer program where students can learn to identify peers who may need help and suggest appropriate services for them.
According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE, a national suicide awareness and prevention program, warning signs of suicide include:
- Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
- Talking about suicide methods
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Substance abuse
- Anxiousness, agitation and recklessness
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Withdrawing or isolating oneself
- Rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
PALS THRIVE Administrative Coordinator Denise Thomas, creator of the term “S talk,” also suggested alternate resources and services for those in need, including UF Health Psychiatry’s outpatient locations, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, the National Suicide Hotline, the Alachua County Crisis Center, the Village Counseling Center and numerous University of Florida mental wellness programs.
“We want to work as a community,” PALS THRIVE Clinical Coordinator Yanel Casanova, LMHC, said. “If PALS is not the perfect fit, we will help you find what you need. We are strongest when we work together.”
To kickstart seven days of education, awareness and suicide prevention measures, PALS THRIVE will be screening the 2016 documentary “Not Alone” at The Hippodrome Theatre at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8. “Not Alone” focuses on signs of suicide and how to appropriately discuss mental illness with peers.
PALS THRIVE plans to continue to play the documentary in schools as a tool to connect children, parents and the parent-teacher association to this very important message.
Mental Illness Awareness Week is Oct. 7 to 13.