I am a volunteer with Elyssa’s Mission. I recently had the opportunity to visit a high school that was presenting the Signs of Suicide ® program (SOS program) and found myself skyrocketed into an experience of unexpected proportions. First, the program was well prepared, managed, analyzed and executed. All staff were focused and invested in a positive outcome for the students – about 500. Next, I had the opportunity to watch the SOS program DVD for the first time with a classroom of girls. Not only did it discuss Elyssa’s story among others, it also presented vignettes that were representative of potential high school situations among friends around depression and suicide. The professionalism and appropriate management of this serious material was evident throughout the DVD with teenage language being used with an eye for diversity to effectively communicate how to help oneself or a desperate friend.

I found myself having a visceral experience relating information in the DVD to my own past personal experience with family, friends and coworkers. I thought about what a positive difference it might have made in my life and others if such information had been available earlier in our lives. After viewing the DVD, staff led a discussion with the girls based on the content of the vignettes highlighting the signs of suicide and ACT (Acknowledge, Care and Tell an adult). Then, the BSAD and Response Cards were filled out by the students for completion of the day’s formal program to be immediately screened by staff to connect students in trouble with appropriate counselors as soon as possible.

As the girls were dispersing after class, one girl converged on the teaching staff but found him busy with another girl’s questions, she circled around and spotted us (Elyssa’s Mission’s Director of Education and myself) and bee-lined directly toward us in a rush that resulted in her initial silence at her bravery and then a flood of tears. She asked for help as we comforted her until staff was available to talk with her and connect her with a counselor. Profound! I had experienced an immediate result of the benefits of the SOS program. I left that day feeling the full impact of the success of this program to positively change teenagers’ lives.

– Quaquilla Rhea Walker, PhD
Social Science Researcher