Ava Seccuro staff writer
Alya Mehrtash staff writer
The NormanAid Center has urged all freshmen to participate in the optional Signs of Suicide (S.O.S.) program to be educated on the warning signs of depression as a part of the California Department of Education code AB 1436 that was implemented Sept. 19, 2018.
From Sept. 25, the NormanAid Center pulled all freshmen out of their second period classes to participate in a thorough, routine mental health examination with the NormanAid staff. This included watching a video regarding mental health and taking a personal depression screening. The videos depicted scenarios in which the main character experienced violent or suicidal thoughts, and by watching this, freshmen learned how to properly react to these situations. In the personal depression screening, freshmen were asked “yes” or “no” questions regarding their mental state.
Aside from the program itself, NormanAid staff has taken action inside and outside of the center to raise awareness and to support the new project.
“The biggest thing [to support S.O.S.] was that we all wore purple shirts so that everyone knew that it was Suicide Prevention Day,” peer counselor junior Sophia Mantville said. “We made a NormanAid video which was letting people know that it’s okay to seek support, [and] that September is all about seeking support because you can always reach out for help at NormanAid.”
Intervention Counselor and Director of NormanAid Ali Norman-Franks emphasized that sharing a friend’s information is sometimes okay, and that it is even the right thing to do when you are presented with life-threatening circumstance regarding their wellbeing.
“Often, I think students hear things that to be a good friend, you don’t share information, but the S.O.S. program…teaches them the opposite,” Norman-Franks said. “As a friend there are times when you have to break a secret…the motivation is to educate students and to keep students safe.”
As suicide is a primary focus for the NormanAid Center and this program, some freshmen, including Manuela Torres, believe that the S.O.S program will act as a beneficial service for their upcoming years in high school.
“I think it was helpful to know ways to help your friends if they ever are thinking of suicide…it’s a good support method just to let everybody know that there’s someone to talk to,” Torres said.
Although NormanAid’s goal is to have every freshman participate in a screening, the activity was not mandatory.
“We send letters home to all the parents and let them know if they don’t want their student to participate…during the day of if a student is uncomfortable and wants to step out…nobody has to do it,” Norman-Franks said. “The hope is by watching the video, they’ll be inspired to learn about themselves and how to better care for themselves as well as how to support a friend.”
The S.O.S program is not solely about helping a friend through hard times, but it is also about learning how to ask for help for yourself. The personal depression screening provides insight on whether or not a student should seek counseling based on a reflection of their own feelings.
“This will impact the community by spreading awareness, because a lot of people don’t know that you can get help…a lot of people don’t know that there are signs [of suicide] and there are signs to prevent [suicide], and its good for people to know them,” Mantville said.
By shedding light on signs of depression and suicide, NormanAid has brought comfort to some students by making them more familiar with these signs, and how they can use it to help their friends or themselves.
“It is really nice to know what to do in case I suspect symptoms of a friend, [or if I] have it in the back of my head,” freshman Ella Revivo said.
The S.O.S. program, while helping freshmen, also helped NormanAid staffers to get to know the freshmen more intimately.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for us to meet every single freshman so that immediately all the freshmen know what NormanAid is, what types of programs we run. It also gives us an idea of what students may need additional support [with],” Norman-Franks said.
Aside from spreading awareness about suicide prevention, the S.O.S. program has been viewed as a way to teach students that what they feel is okay and that there’s nothing wrong with seeking help when needed.
“I find that it’s great to talk, and it’s always good to get your feelings out, to keep an open mind and to hear other people’s opinions,” Mantville said. “It’s a great idea to talk to counselors and I think that’s a great message that has come from [this program].”