Amy Bennett from Lightspeed Systems:
Thanks, everybody, for joining us today to learn about this important topic, Suicide Prevention, and Getting Your Students, the Help That They Need. We are recording this discussion, you’ll get a link to the full recording, as well as other helpful resources, in an e-mail, after the event, and we welcome your questions.
Use the question box in your GoToWebinar control panel to ask questions of any of our speakers throughout the discussion. We really want us to be learning and talking about this together.
So, today is the last day of September, which is Suicide Prevention and Awareness month.
But, of course, the issues of students mental health, the need for awareness and discussion and solutions doesn’t just go away at the end of the month.
In fact, more than 3000 teenagers in the US attempt suicide, every single day, and suicide is the number two cause of death for young people, ages 10 to 23. Now, despite those alarming statistics, this situation isn’t hopeless. And that’s why we’re here today. We’ve brought together a panel of experts to help us understand the issue and identify ways that we can help. These are all people who, like, lightspeed systems, are passionate about keeping kids safe, including from self-harm.
Let’s meet our panel, Amy, can you introduce yourself?
Hi everyone, I’m Amy Grosso, I have the privilege of being the Board Chair for the Central Texas Chapter of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. AFSP is the largest non-profit in the nation that really is there to help with suicide prevention awareness and supporting those who have lost someone to suicide or they themselves have suffered with an attempt or suicidal ideation. My day job though, is I’m the Director of Behavioral Health Services at Round Rock ISD, which is a district in Texas that has about 48,000 students and I oversee a team of social workers and our mental health centers.
I’m very excited to be here for this important topic.
Thank you so much Amy. Thank you for being here. Nicole, introduce yourself to everyone.
Hello everyone. My name is Nicole Allien and I’m with Caddo Parish Public Schools. I’ve been with Caddo for 21 years now and I’m an instructional technologist with my fourth year in this job and I’m excited to be here with you guys today.
Thank you so much and Ariana.
Hi everybody, my name is Arianna Marks. I am a safety specialist on the Human Review team here at Lightspeed.
Previous to this, I was a high school teacher, and I am just really excited to talk about this impactful and really relevant topic with us today.
Thank you all for being here. And thank you everyone who is joining to listen and learn with us.
Amy as someone who has been involved in suicide prevention in various ways for many years, helped us set this stage. What are you seeing in terms of student mental health?
Yeah, you know I think when the pandemic hit, what, 18 months ago? I think a lot of people take note of mental health, especially for our students in a way that’s never happened before and a lot of people were presuming that that’s the one reason our students were struggling with mental health. But I think it’s important for us all to know that mental health has been a concern for students for a long time now. You know the suicide rates you were mentioning those are new just because of that pandemic suicide rates in teens has been steadily increasing for over 10 years.
Pre pandemic one in four students would struggle with anxiety. And so we have known this is has been coming.
And then when we enter a global pandemic, you know, that increases the impact, not just on students but all of us. And so one of the biggest things I’ve seen is that we’re actually paying attention to mental health as a society for the first time in a very big way. And as much as I would have to chuckle when I would get people calling me and saying, did you know mental health is of concern to students. And I was like I’m glad you’re on board now. And so I think that’s one of the really important things to note. Now, has the pandemic impacted students’ mental health?
Yes, it has impacted all of our mental health. It’s impacted mine, right. Like, it’s hard, and so I think those are the things we need to remember, though, that this isn’t new, but it is impacting what our students are dealing with.
It’s so important that you talk about the fact that this isn’t new, because one of the other things that I’ve heard is, OK, we need to get students back to class, back to in-person learning, because their mental health is suffering at home.
And now that they’re mostly back, like, OK, do we not have to worry about that so much anymore? And, as you point out that, that’s not the case, right?
Absolutely, And, you know, it’s presenting new challenges and new opportunities at the same time, as much as virtual learning was very difficult for a lot of people.
For some students, it was actually better for their mental health, right. And so I think we have to learn, understand that we all are different people and just because staying at home impacted me in one way, it doesn’t mean it impacted somebody else. Right. And I have an eight-year-old.
He did not like saying home. He is mister social. So, he needed to be back in that classroom, but some of our students didn’t.
Also, some of our students got used to, For safety reasons, right? Staying at home, and now saying, OK. Now you’re going to go back to this school, like, we have some schools with almost 4000 students.
That can cause some anxiety in itself, because we’re not used to being in these big, big environments anymore. And so realizing that we just need to understand individually of each student, of how it’s impacting them, and it’s not impacting anyone, exactly the same.
Yeah, that’s a really good point.
Some student, too, feel much better to be back in the classroom. Others have some social anxiety to go along with that, and recognizing that every person, not just every student, is handling it different.
Nicole tell us how that matches what you’re seeing at Caddo, with, with students coming back and with the state of the pandemic.
Yeah, we have a lot of our students that have come back, we have about 900 who are still at home.
We do have some of those students still at home that really want to be back in the classroom.
In fact, a couple of weeks ago, we had an actual safety alert from a student who said, some things about self-harm.
And we checked into it, and she wanted to come back to school. Her parents were worried for her safety.
So, you know, as a family, they decided to keep her home, and she’s ready to be back with her students.
And then, on the other side of it, we have people back at school who really want to be at home. Like Amy said, they do better at home, they feel better at home, they don’t have to worry about social pressures of school at home, and so we’ve seen it.
We’ve seen it on both sides where they, they still have, it’s still an impact on them, they, that social interaction, either needing it or not needing it.
I’m talking about self-harm, because they don’t know any other way out.
Yeah, and we’re talking about suicide prevention and self-harm prevention, but really this ties to well-being and mental health of our students and of our population.
And you know, it’s a changing situation.
Amy, one of the things that you mentioned in the beginning is that you’re glad that people are talking about this now.
We’re going to dispel some myths as we go through this conversation and one net that that I feel people have is that bringing up suicide, talking about suicide will make people think of it when they had not considered it before. Can you tell us about that and just the importance of conversations like the one we’re having today.
Absolutely, and that’s probably one of the biggest myths. And it’s still, and as far as we’ve come as a society with stigma around mental health and suicide, It’s still one of those that people are really holding onto. Parents are afraid, educators are afraid that if I bring up suicide to a student, that it’s going to make them want to kill themselves, and we know by research time and time again that there’s nothing further from the truth, We know that if we actually ask about things, such as suicide, wanting to harm ourselves, that we’re opening the door, so as students are struggling, they’re able to get the help that they need.
I do a lot of parent presentations at our district, and I always tell parents, if it’s hard for you to bring up the topic of suicide, how hard is it for your child to talk to you about it if they’re experiencing it?
So just like you said, the more we’re talking about this, we’re saying that this isn’t a taboo topic anymore. You know for the longest time it’s been an off limit, we don’t talk about it. It’s something to be shameful of.
And the more we talk about it, the more we reduce that stigma, which will, in turn, allow people to get the help they need. And that’s what we want. Right?
Oftentimes, we’re very good about knowing, especially in schools, of knowing what to do if there’s a suicide crisis, so that no, student is ready, right, then wanting to kill themselves. We have plans, we want to know what to do.
But suicide prevention is actually about early intervention and early alerts, and noticing signs and symptoms way, before a crisis point, so that counseling can be given and supports can be given to that student, and to that family. And, so, I think, the more we talk about it, even though it’s hard for some of us who are older, and we were raised not to talk about it, the more we’re able to get past that and educate ourselves. It’s only going to help our students.
Yeah, I know that for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, one of the ongoing goals is reducing that stigma of bringing the topic out of the darkness.
And it’s so important, and I’m really glad to see so many people here, to listen to this conversation, because it shows a willingness to do that.
One of the things that you talked about, and we’re all looking at ways to do a great job at, is identifying those signs that you mentioned, most people who attempt suicide do leave signs.
Most people who attempt suicide are glad if they are stopped, right? So keeping an eye for those signs, and preventing is really important. Tell us what some of those signs are, or what should we be looking out for, both in our online monitoring, which we’re going to continue to talk about, but just in our lives, as well.
Right, we really break up down into three categories: Talk, behavior, and mood. So talk is the, are they talking about unbearable pain?
Do they talk about wanting to kill themselves? And I often hear from educators and parents with students that, Oh, they’re just joking.
No, Like, we have to take every time somebody says it seriously. Also get told, well, they’re just saying it for attention.
OK, well A, I don’t know if they are not, but B, if they’re saying that to get attention. Something else is going on, that we need to support the student it right there something else. That’s not a normal, appropriate way to get attention. So, those are the things we really look out for within behavior. Are they acting recklessly?
A lot of times, we think that somebody who is suicidal, they’re just crying and, you know, into themselves. But, you know, the child who is reckless and doesn’t care, that can be a warning sign increase of drugs and alcohol. A lot of times, we like to think that that’s just normal, typical adolescent behavior. No, like that’s telling us something. Giving away possession can be one.
Maybe that was the kid that’s always loved sports and now they don’t care at all about sports and they’re not doing any of those things. Any of those changes. And then mood is a lot, how the mood of the student changed.
You know, are they just irritable, all the time now? Are they sad consistently for a long time, not just one bad day. What I always say is, you have to trust your gut. If you think something, if you notice something, say something you know? If you notice there’s a change in the student, say something.
A few years ago, when our discharge, we did Talk Saves Lives, which is ASPs Introduction to Suicide Prevention. It’s a great training. You can go on a FSP dot org and that’s free to any anybody that we did it with all our bus drivers.
Because, a lot of times, in schools, we only think about educating our teachers on these things. But, we need to think holistically of who sees our students. And I really enjoyed working with our bus drivers.
They all mentioned that they had seen these changes. They just didn’t know what to do with that information.
And so really making sure all of us are looking out for those changes. But then within a school within your house, do you know what to do with that information once you see it?
Yeah, that sounds like a really powerful extension of what we think of as the support system for students where we’re thinking of counselors and teachers and parents. And it’s everyone who interacts with these students and sees them at the different touch points through their day And the Talk Saves Lives series. I know Ariana has taken it. I have taken it. It’s really powerful tools for so many of the things that you just listed.
As far as the things to watch for, that, you might just think are teenage behavior, or kids talk, those sorts of things, and how to keep an eye out for them and respond to them.
Which, you know, we’re talking about this state of crisis, and people need solutions, people need actions they can take. To go back to that prevention that you mentioned earlier, Amy, At lightspeed, we have been keeping kids safe in various ways for 20 years.
The most recent way we’re doing that is with our newest product called Alert, which has human review that monitors student activity online and employs people like Arianna, who we’re going to hear from really soon, to review those alerts and help take some of the load off. Districts who I know are overworked as we’re dealing with so many things to alert them of students in crisis. So, Ariana, tell us a little bit about what your role is and what your process looks like for that.
Yeah, absolutely. So essentially, what happens is our AI detects key words or phrases that are potentially harmful or threatening to the student or to other people.
And so, as a human reviewer, I look at the Alert, and we have categories and labels dependent on the context of the alert if that makes sense.
So, violence, abuse, and neglect, self-harm, C-sam, and then, from there, we also rank the severity level, dependent on the imminence of the threat.
And so, if it’s a level three or a level four, which is the highest, we will either reach out to the districts via e-mail and provide as much context as we can regarding that alert. Or if it’s a higher level immanence, then we will give that district a call.
I can tell you in my own experience that I’ve had calls that have prevented a suicide attempt and it’s really rewarding to work with the school districts. Whenever you hear back from them and they say, hey, the student is safe, the authorities are aware, the school is aware and we have opened the case or continued the case on the student.
And so, yeah, it’s really rewarding and we, we play directly into intervention with that alert system.
It’s almost like an extension of your bus drivers, Amy, where we’re using AI for students online activity for the things they’re writing in Google Docs and the things that they are searching for, they show these indicators of violence to self or to others.
And then the service that Arianna and the team of Human reviewers is providing is, you know all of those AI alerts can be a lot for a district to have to sort through and deal with.
When everyone is very busy from the bus drivers to the teachers, to the counselors to instructional technologist like Nicole. So they employ this system of calling people and letting them know when there is something that they need to deal with. And Nicole, I know that you are one of those people who received calls from Arianna and the rest of the team. You’ve been with me for a long time, but Alert is a newer solution the district has added.
Talk us through this situation that led you to realize the need for this.
There are six people in the instructional technology department hear in Caddo.
Two of us are using Lightspeed. Two of us are, it’s our burden to carry mostly.
But you know, we have that whole safety check thing set up to where you know, e-mails go to schools and all of that. But I still had to make phone calls to say hey, did you get this safety check? Are you aware of this?
And so I also had to go in and do the research essentially that Ariana is doing.
I can tell you we’ve had Alert turned on since the nineteenth.
I looked this morning we’ve had 38 self-harm safety checks since the nineteenth.16 of them have resulted in an alert coming from Ariana or someone like her. Now, I’ve not gotten an imminent threat phone call yet, but I can tell you that a week ago we had a middle schooler Googling, well, I thought it was a Google, and it was, what do you do if you’re having suicidal thoughts?
I looked at it, I looked at the screenshot, and it looked like a slideshow presentation. I thought he was doing some suicide prevention project because we have a lot of that going on right now.
But I still picked up the phone, because something in me said, You better call that school. Especially, after I got an alert.
Three minutes after I got a safety check, I got an alert. And, of all, uhm I better do this because the alert said and in the past this child has done said some other things.
So I called the school and I got the principal in Milan and he said, Oh my goodness, Thank you for calling me. This student just came out of a mental health facility and he needs help.
So, I checked back with him a few days later, and he said, he’s actually been put back in that mental health facility.
So, it was serious enough, you know, that he really, probably would have followed through with what he was saying in his, what he was going to say in the rest of that slideshow, you know, just something simple like that, though, that I thought was an assignment, because it was in a slideshow format, and it really was, what do you do if you’re having suicidal thoughts?
I didn’t know that he had a history or a past, and it would have taken me a long time to figure that out. So, just in the 11 days since we had alert, it’s my burden that I carry is not near as heavy now that I know we have a human reviewer on the back side telling me, hey, 16 of these 38 things that you’ve just gotten, they’re real.
It’s been good for us, and we’ve only had the alert system for 11 days now.
So, yeah, It just gets harder, you know, every day, it seems like they get younger and younger. And when I walked in here four years ago, I came out of an elementary school setting. Um, I didn’t see this at, you know, we didn’t have this program in place when I was teaching.
It started when I came into this, into this office four years ago. So, we just kinda had to look with our eyes and listen with our ears, what was going on in the school setting. But I didn’t see it in elementary school.
And, you know, this week, I got a fourth grader, Googling, the easiest ways to commit suicide in school.
One of the one of the things that we have heard often from schools that are using lightspeed, alert, is that it’s younger, and younger students, or students that are so young. They never would have expected it and who they’re seeing this concerning behavior about. And, Amy, I wonder if you could speak a little bit about that.
It actually ties to one of the questions that has come in, which is that it feels like students are more quickly than ever, going from a stressful situation to talk of self-harm, like it escalates quickly, and maybe those things are related.
Yeah, and I think first to say, yes, this hasn’t just happened in the last 18 months. Even before that, we were seeing kids younger and younger, struggling with some complex mental health anxiety.
Like I said, anxiety, we think about more with our high school students, especially in middle school, but we were seeing a younger and younger, and even before that, including suicidal ideation, thoughts of harm to self. And so, it has been happening. And, you know, I think, a lot of people, it’s the, why, trying to figure out, like, we have the data that it is happening. But what are some of the whys, and how do, how are we proactive and preventative, and I’ve referenced in the Talk Saves Lives presentation, we talk about, like, what are these preventative protective factors, and two that do happen in schools, is community support, we know, is vital for students and having at least one adult, they trust that they can go to and say, I’m struggling. The other is the idea of coping skills.
A lot of you might have heard of social emotional learning curriculum, SEL. We used to call it emotional intelligence, all these different names we call by, but a lot of it is how we learn to manage and cope with motion’s relationships. Resiliency is a buzz word right now. Like, we have to build resiliency. So, what does that mean?
It’s really how do we overcome difficult situations, But, for me, it’s students not just learning that, but if they are struggling to a point that they can’t, who do they know to reach out? And how do we train our staff to know what to do if the student reaches out and not minimizing it or diminishing it? And so how do we really help students face the hard things?
For the longest time, we want to protect them. You know, as parents, we don’t want our kids to feel a negative emotion, are what we would say, negative emotions, like sadness and anger, and some of those, where all of them are just emotion. And we don’t want them to feel that. So it’s like, my kid needs to be happy all the time. Students need to be happy all the time.
Well, A, that’s unrealistic, and we’re not teaching them how to manage through when there is disappointment. And when there is grief, when there is sadness, or when I am angry. We have to give kids opportunities in a safe environment to work through those emotions, because then they realize things can get hard. And I know what I had to manage through it.
At the beginning of the pandemic, I was doing a parent session on how to help seniors in high school who are grieving their senior year, right? Their senior year just got totally abruptly disrupted.
Parents would say, Well, my kids just not happy. How do I make them happy? And I wanted to, and I just told them they’re not going to be happy or sad.
They’re angry. They’re disappointed. Sit with them. Feel it together.
We can’t bypass these hard emotions and that’s a lot out of the work I view as suicide prevention work that we often don’t talk about.
Obviously, we’re probably not all going to learn all the things that you know here today in this hour, Amy.
But, if, if districts are worried about, if I get this information, how do I go talk to the student?
How do I empower the parents to, I know we have some resources we’re going to include but give them some tips on how to manage that.
First, take a breath, right? As being stressed and freaking out does not help the student.
When an alert comes, the first thing is immediately to ensure the student’s safety. It’s not something where we wait till the end of the day.
Do not let them get on the bus. That’s not the bus driver’s responsibility, right? We go and we pull them out of class.
Ensure that if they’re coming to see a counselor, I would suggest it being someone who has mental health training to talk with the student about that, you know, don’t ask another student task order. It needs to be an adult.
Then really having an honest conversation. I think it goes back to again, you know, the question about, if I ask about suicide, like if we’ve seen some jester, some concerning things. If we’ve seen, like if there’s an alert that a kid has written something, you have to ask directly of, are you thinking of killing yourself?
Just that simplistic, don’t say you’re not thinking of killing yourself, are you? Because that’s already a negative connotation that I don’t want you to say, yes.
Also, I always think it’s important to reassure them that it’s OK if they are having those thoughts, that our job is to make sure they get the help they need.
In the same way if they had a really high fever and had the flu, we would ensure they got to the next step of help, and that’s who we are as the school.
So, I think that’s the first step of just really keeping it calm. Students feed off our energy, so we have to be confident.
I always tell our team and stuff like, we role play a lot we practice, which they know people hate role playing, but if I’ve never asked that question for someone, even in a role play situation is going to be horrible in the moment.
So really like getting used to that kind of dialog. About the parents, you do want to alert the parents and let them know it’s serious.
But also know that it’s incredibly frightening for a parent. There’s a lot of myths out there about with parenting, that, if my kid has a mental health condition, and especially if they’re suicidal, it means I have completely messed up as a parent, and you think I’ve done a bad job parenting.
That’s not the truth. Just like we have physical health, crisis, and physical health concerns, we have mental health concerns and mental health crisis, so as much as we can help our parents and walk through that and let them know, we want to walk with them through this, We’re going to make sure they get to the support they need.
I’m very fortunate here at Round Rock that we have a team of social workers, so they do a lot of that work, and talking parents through. They are going to a psychiatric hospital, like what that’s going to look like, what that process is, because it’s scary, no matter what, and especially, if you’re not used to it.
Then also, the communication with the family, If the kid is gone for a week or two, that we don’t just leave them on their own. Like how do we continue?
The collaboration, offering them supports, a lot of communities, have some parent education clover says, on helping your child who has a mental health condition.
Looking for those, really educating the parent as much weight as we can and making sure they’re supported.
Then I always say re-entry back to school is just as important.
So, how do we help a student transition back and letting the families know they might have a stigma wanting anybody to know their kid was hospitalized for suicidal ideation.
But the more we can lay plans out and safety planning, and getting on the wrap-around support, coming back to school, the more we ensure we’re not going to just repeat back right into another crisis.
Right, sort of like the example that Nicole was sharing earlier, you need to be prepared for that re-entry.
I want to re-iterate the question that you said, are you thinking of killing yourself? Because, as I said earlier, I feel like people think that’s putting an idea in someone’s head that was not there already.
It’s a scary, hard question to ask, as you said, like practicing it and role playing can be really important, because people don’t often say those words. They say, are you sad?
Or are you depressed, Or you’re not going to hurt yourself, are you? But are you thinking and feeling yourself, like, as you said, really, really powerful.
I’m kind of working a little bit backwards here. I know that you know, all of those tools for having that conversation with a kid for having a conversation with their parents.
You know, from our perspective with our solution it, it begins with Ariana here who identifies a situation where she is calling the district and Ariana, you’re going through your own call tree and escalation path in those cases of imminent concern until you get someone on the phone. Right. Tell us about even just that handoff, like, part of part of what Amy is saying is, like, you can’t assume someone else is going to take care of this. So, the handoff is really critical. Tell us about some of your experiences with that.
Yeah, absolutely. So, alert is 24 hour monitoring. So, I work there, 4PM to midnight shift.
So, there are times where I get an alert at 10 PM and, you know, if it’s imminent, and it’s something that I feel on my gut, because that’s kind of what I go off of a lot, my kind of natural intuition of this is wrong. I need to contact somebody.
So, kind of the process of contacting the escalation tree is you call that first person. If you don’t get an answer, you call the next one, call the next one, and if you don’t reach anybody in that escalation tree, we are obligated to call the authorities. And so, I’ve had a couple of situations where I had an alert late in the night, and, again, we service districts all over the country.
So, take into account the time zones as well, So I’ve had an alert come in late, I didn’t hit anybody on the escalation tree, and I had to call the authorities in that area.
And so, yeah, it’s really just about understanding that this kid needs help. And so whatever I need to do is what I’m going to do, and a lot of times, the authorities are right on it.
And then they’ll get with the school districts immediately. And then usually I get a contact back from the school district. And depending on where the district is located, I may get some additional feedback from the authorities as well.
And I know that that you have kind of pretty spelled out criteria for what is imminent risk.
What is this point where you need to call the authorities, there’s immanence, it’s high risk, there’s access to weapons. There’s a plan in place, Those sorts of things, that first, you’re trying to call the district, because they have a relationship with the parents or the student or something, someone. But, when that fails, there’s no waiting till the morning, right? This is imminent risk, so Nicole, from your perspective, I know you’ve, you’ve dealt with cause late at night, you’ve dealt with alerts all weekend.
Talk to us about, about what your process is. Obviously, you’re not driving to 40,000 student’s homes, you’re reaching out to counselors and principals, and parents, tell us about that. And even kind of tying to some of the tools Amy was giving us earlier.
When you call a parent in the middle of the night and told them that their child is at risk of suicide, you need to often give them the tools to walk in the door and have that conversation. So, tell us what the district does. And I know that it sort of, it takes a village, right? So there are a lot of people involved, besides the two of you that you mentioned earlier.
Yes, um, look, I’m very lucky that we do have some amazing counselors and Caddo. We have a great school psychologist.
Thankfully, when alert was put in place, those people were at the top of that phone tree. So, I’ve been very lucky not to have to make that phone call yet.
But prior to Alert, there was a lot of phone calls that I had to make. And in the middle of the night and some of them, it was just happenstance that I was awake at one o’clock in the morning and I saw an e-mail come through. Now, it’s very hard to call a principal at one o’clock in the morning, because they are not very happy to hear from you at one o’clock in the morning.
But our process, though, was, I get something, I call the school level person. If I can’t get the school level person, I know I go to the counselor, can’t get them. Eventually, we call the police department for the district, and, and I’ve had to do that a few times. And that’s not easy.
I’ve never had to personally call, no, I’ve had to call one parent, and that was probably the hardest phone call I’ve ever made in my entire life. And that parent was very quick to respond.
They took care of things, that it was kind of a situation, like I talked about earlier, that student ended up in a facility getting help, the help that they needed, because it was a real cry for help.
But, once we’ve figured out that there is a student that has, Is it risk, there’s a threat assessment done by the school psychologist.
There’s a referral to an outside psychologist. That person has to sign off on letting the student come back to school. Before the student actually ever comes back into our schools. They meet again with our school psychologists in the school. The psychologist puts a plan in place for check ins, whether it be daily, or weekly, or monthly, and it starts, it starts daily, moves to weekly, then goes to monthly. But counselors are in place. The student has help after the fact.
But I want to say that Amy was talking about an SEL program earlier last year. As we were looking at that, just the uptake of everything going on with alerts and, and hits, and we had a lot more self-harm, safety checks, and violence checks throughout the pandemic, then, than prior to. So, we have implemented a social emotional learning platform in our parish.
It starts with kindergarten, so it starts with the babies and goes all the way up to high school. There is, it’s three times a week, every week, 15 minutes, every time.
I know that seems like a small amount of time, but three times a week for 15 minutes is more than zero times a week at zero minutes. It comes with a parent component.
The parents are e-mailed home connection guides and newsletters, and so we’re really trying to do our due diligence with the mental health of our students.
Because we really, you know, our place as educators is to make them as safe as they can be, while they’re at school with us, and when they leave us as well.
Nicole, you talked about the parenting component there. What kind of training are you giving?
Teachers who are thinking, I need to look for different signs in a classroom then I think they used to.
So, this program actually comes with a teacher training. For every unit or section, the teacher has to go through an entire training module before they are allowed to actually go in and teach it to their students.
So, they have to take an assessment after they’re finished to make sure that they are completely aware of what they need to do, and, you know, to teach it just, it really has opened up, I think, for our students and our teachers, agood conversation flow, you know, moments to, to actually talk about things and to know it’s OK to talk about things.
Nicole, we have some, some questions about that. Specifically, what is the name of the cell program you’re using?
It’s called Rethink Ed.
Rethink Ed, and what you’re using to monitor students online activity is Lightspeed Alert. And then, people are looking for tools. You can tell this, because questions are coming in about them.What do either you, Nicole, or you, Amy recommend, in terms of student surveys, like wellness, pulse checks, that kind of thing? Amy, do you want to go first? You’re nodding, right?
Yeah, I can go first. And just another thing we use Second Step, which is another SEL curriculum, that is available. I think the biggest thing, like pulse checks are great.
But realizing that all these tools are wonderful, but it still comes down to us, as educators, as parents, looking for things too, we can’t always put it on the student.
With a pulse check saying, oh, it’s a bad day, well, maybe I’m just conditioned to not let anybody know that I’m struggling. Because that’s what I’ve learned from my family. I just have to put on a happy face. And so, I think we all, those are great, but we can’t depend solely on those. It’s a both and right. Like, even talking about like kindergarten, like suicide prevention work for me, start seeing as soon as kids are born because it’s about learning to talk openly about emotions and feelings.
And I asked parents, do you asked your kids about their feelings as much as you ask about grades? And they normally look horrified. When I say that because they’re like, oh my gosh, I ask about grades all the time and we never ask about feelings. And so suicide prevention talks, doesn’t have to be scary. It can just be, how are we engaging the feeling side of, as how are we opened as adults about our feelings that we’re sad, or where the variety of different motions we have.
I suggest families watch Inside Out together. It’s a great movie about variety, of emotions. I use it, clips from it, and training all the time, so I think just getting comfortable having these discussions all the time and so that then when a kid is struggling and their pulse is really low.
A, there’s an environment where they feel like they can say that. Because if we just go through steps, but we don’t have the second piece, they’re not going to be honest with us.
How much of this, do you think is, is just a cultural shift that has happened from when it was more Don’t cry, there’s no reason to cry, to the sorts of conversations you’re advocating for now, which is, let’s talk about why you’re sad. Let’s kind of explore that and be open to it.
I think it’s a definitely culture shift. Students, I have noticed, for years now, have wanted to talk about mental health. I used to do a lot of presentations for our high school students, even like three years ago, and I’d always say, what’s the one thing we, as adults can do to help you?
And they said, just listen, and believe us. Believe us, when we say we’re struggling, they often say, can you just make my parents understand?
We think a lot of times, as adults, we’re not intentionally minimizing what students are going through. Because we’re like, oh, everybody went through high school. It’s fine.
What students are dealing with now is completely different than what even was happening 10 years ago. So, being willing to listen in, yes, word generation raised not talking about emotions.
So, it’s going to be uncomfortable for us, but our students and our children, their worth as being uncomfortable. And, I think we, ourselves, can learn something at the same time. Let them teach us about emotions, because they know so much more than we do.
Really powerful, but that’s what the students are asking for.
Listen to us, believe us. Believe us when we say what we’re feeling.
Another question has come in about what makes lightspeed alert different than other solutions that are on the market, all starting answer to this. But then, I’m going to have Ariana and Nicole add to it.
We see the number one difference really being about the breadth of monitoring that we do. Some solutions are looking at your Google in Office 365 docs and drives and really just scanning those.
Others are looking at what you search or, you know, maybe you know, some social media activity and Alert is doing all of those things. Because students are in all of those places. And, you know, I’m going to have Ariana give us some examples here.
But it’s not like they’re, they’re just searching for suicide. That’s not like they’re just going to Google Docs. There also chatting in various programs or, you know, a random text box on a website where they’re sharing these feelings that as Amy said, they want to share.
So that is the number one difference. I would say you know, there are other differences in terms of how our safety specialists like Ariana are trained and our partnership with schools, that has just a really long history but that recognition that you can’t just monitor one site.
You can’t just look in one type of place because students are spending a lot of their time on their devices in various ways. So Ariana, talk to us a little bit about the different kinds of places you see students expressing these, these feelings and behaviors.
Yeah, absolutely. Nicole mentioned that she had a student talking on a Google slide. And I’m seeing a lot of students talking to each other on a Google Doc, where they’ve invited multiple students to this one, Google Doc, and it’s like this long chat. And within that chat, they’re talking about, oh, my mom is upset at me, today, I just want to go kill myself. Or I had this issue at school today. And so they’re talking to each other through the Google Doc, and with Alert, we can see what kids were talking at what point.
Um, Amy B you also mentioned that students are on online games, right? So we see online game chat forums, where kids are talking on chat. They’re talking to strangers, not even students are talking to strangers out there on the Internet, which also, that brings alerts, as well.
So, I think that’s a great point that you made, that we see alert active in lots of ways, pretty much anything that the student is on their school issued, device, we will see and pick up on.
I think also, our human review team has a lot of really great experience. We have a private investigator on our team. We have multiple people that were in law enforcement, two of us that were in the K through 12 arena. And so, I think we have just a lot of experience. And just that, the quick intervention that we have, so we get the alert almost as soon as the kid types it in.
Like, literally, it’s almost instantaneous. And so then, you know, we have the opportunity to quickly intervene whenever those situations arise.
If this is a situation where seconds count minutes count, right? I believe we’re talking about imminent threats. And you highlighted a couple of things. There are, you know, we talked about the sort of breadth of monitoring that we do.
Another thing that you touched on is that, there’s so many things inter-connected here when it comes to students’ mental health.
And we’re focusing today on suicide prevention, but school, violence, and sexual harm, or trafficking, those sorts of things, abuse at home. You’re seeing alerts on all of those sorts of behaviors and able to reach out to the schools and get help right away.
Nicole, tell the audience a little bit about what you see as the benefits of alerts specifically, and how you made that decision?
I think I said this earlier. We turned it on 11 days ago.
For me, to know that I can go to bed at night, and not worry, that when I want to know, opened my eyes at 5:30 in the morning, that there’s going to be an E mail, and I missed it somewhere in the middle of the night.
That is the biggest thing for me, because I don’t ever want to miss anything. I know the hives that I’ve gotten before, looking at my e-mail, going, this happened at two AM this is not good. My gut says this is not good And I’m talking to a principal at 5:30 in the morning saying please right now, please, please, please, please call the parent.
You know, so to take a little bit of it off of our shoulders, I feel like I lost 100 pounds, you know. I know what’s funny is when Ariana was talking, she said, you know, as soon as they write it, they get the alert. They get the self-harm check. I get it to, it comes right through to me.
And, I think I said earlier, within three minutes of a self-harm or of a self-harm check coming to me, we get an alert three minutes later.
But since I’ve been the human review for three years, I look at the alerts and I go, oh, I know, this one’s going to have an alert attached to it, and I bet you, this is what they’re going to say.
So, but now, I don’t have to do that. I can see a self-harm comes through and I’ll go, know what somebody else is looking at this.
So until an alert comes through for me, I can breathe a little easier.
So just to know that there’s another set of eyes, You know, that it’s not completely on just you, or just your counselors, or just your school psychologist or security team, whoever it is. Worth it. Every little bit of it. I mean, just to know I can go to bed at night and not worry. That’s, that’s kind of a big thing for us.
I mean, I know that the schools are perpetually understaffed have more than ever that they’re dealing with.
But I think what you’ve just, what you’ve just explained is the answer to something we hear sometimes, which is: I don’t have the resources or the time to deal with this, and it’s kind of, how can you not.
Then, this is why we added human review, where we will we’ll take those pulse alerts off your plate. We will simplify the process. We will let you know immediately just of the things you need to know about. So, a lot of really important messages in there.
A question that came through, that I think is really interesting, is, if students know they’re being monitored. Do they still write these things?
But I think, I would love some of Amy’s thoughts on this in particular. Arianna and Nicole and I know we have seen that yes they do. I think part of it probably goes back to the fact that they want someone to reach out to them.
And, maybe another part is this, is it. This is a student in crisis there. They’re not thinking about that right at that moment. What, what do you have to add to that? Because students clearly do, even though they know Lightspeed is in place, or something else is in place.
Can I say something real quick before she answers it? We actually had a student write something. And when the counselor came to have a conversation with him, he said he wrote it because he knew it was being monitored, and he needed somebody to talk to.
And he knew that would be the best way to get somebody to talk to him. And I was like, wow. You know that to me was, he needed help, and he knew that if he did this, he wouldn’t have to get up and go tell his teacher something. Somebody would just call him down to the office so that they could have a conversation with him. There was no pressure on him to go and have a face-to-face conversation to actually say something out loud.
He typed it, but that was his reasoning. He said, I knew that you would call me, because I know that you are watching.
Wow, that’s, that’s really kind of highly logical. Yeah.
But, because I think sometimes, you know, we think we do a good job because we tell students, if you’re struggling come talk to us, right?
Or, um, like 1800273 talk is the National Suicide Lifeline number, and anybody can call it 24 7, it’s a great resource if someone’s in crisis and suicidal crisis. But we think that that’s just enough and it’s not. If you are really struggling, if you’re in suicidal crisis, you do have tunnel vision, right?
Like you are just in an immense amount of emotional pain and to be able to verbalize that is too hard for kids sometimes.
And so knowing that they know somebody’s going at least take that burden of, I don’t have to start the conversation is helpful.
Also, about being monitored and kids. Sometimes, kids have really short memories too, as adults, we think, with our adult brain, and knowing that their little brains are fully developed, they don’t think about long term consequences, that they’re just like, oh, I’m going to do this.
And not realizing, like, all the steps, that will then happen. I think it’s also why it works, even though they know, right? I mean, they have little adolescent brains, and it’s not their fault, we all had it, too, But we sort of look at it from, however old we are. That much experience when they only have a little bit.
Really, really important stuff. We’re at five minutes till the top of the hour. The conversation has just been full of information and really emotional stories.
I want to close us out, giving each of you an opportunity to share final piece of advice from your perspective, to the hundreds of people who are listening to us here, and, Amy, I will start with you.
I think we’ve all talked about, like good things to do, and things we have in place in our districts and stuff. I don’t want people to become overwhelmed that they need to do at all. If you do something, it’s better than nothing. You just have to start on this journey, and that is the most important step.
Great reminder, thank you. If anyone’s feeling overwhelmed by all the advice here, it comes back to that, and Amy has provided us with a lot of resources from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which will be in that follow-up e-mail.
So, thank you so much, Amy. Ariana, what is your advice to our listener here today?
Yeah. I’m going to speak from the aspect of human review, because that’s what I know the best. I can just tell everybody that, if you are thinking about it, I think that it’s a great thing to enable. There’s a team of people who really truthfully care about kids and want to make an impact and want to take that weight off of your shoulders. As you know, the district personnel, that you guys carry so much already. But yeah, so there is a team of us that are ready to keep these kids in a safe environment and will do anything that we can to do so.
Thank you for your passion for kids Ariana and sharing so many of those stories. The work that the Human Review team is doing this really powerful I appreciate your time.
Nicole, what is your takeaway for others who are in a very similar situation to you and are listening to us here today?
You know what, I think everybody here knows what I’m going to say, and that is, you really need to invest in an online student safety monitoring platform.
This one, the Lightspeed is amazing, Adding Alert has taken major burden off of us. The human review side is fantastic. I can’t say enough about it.
Aside from going out, talking to Amy about Lightspeed today, you probably need to make sure you’re investing in your counselors and your psychologists to make sure that they’re ready to go out to those schools and talk to those students.
Because, like I said, we have an amazing group of counselors here, amazing school psychologists, and we’re invested in our kids. And, that would be the advice that I would have to make sure you have those things in place.
Thank you so much to our panel. Thank you to everyone who has listened and been part of this discussion. We had so many great questions coming throughout.
This is such an important topic to discuss, and not always easy, as we’ve said, but through the three of you and your expertise, I feel like we’ve covered so much ground and made it really accessible.
Thank you very much. For our attendees. When you leave the webinar today, you’ll get a short survey.
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