According to a 2017 Virginia Youth Survey, one in five females and one in 10 males in middle school and high school have seriously contemplated suicide in the last 12 months.
Freedom High School in Chantilly is working to change that, with the help of the National Council on Behavioral Health and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.
Earlier this month, Governor Ralph Northam announced the National Council on Behavioral Health and Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation selected two Virginia high schools to take part in a teen mental health pilot program, including Freedom High School. Freedom is one of eight to be selected nationwide.
Teen MHFA is designed for high school students to learn about mental illness and addictions. Students are taught how to help their friends who are facing mental health problems, or even crises like suicide, by listening and asking for help from a trusted adult.
For Freedom, it’s just business as usual. Principal Douglas Fulton says Freedom staff has undergone mental health first aid training for the past four years. The school was searching for a way to extend that training to its student body when it applied for the National Council on Behavioral Health pilot.
“[Students] are only going to share so much with the adults, but now their friends and their classmates can help them, which I think is the best part about this: we’re training the students now,” said health and P.E. teacher Michele Gibbons.
The pilot will be evaluated by Johns Hopkins University researchers. If successful, the training will be made available to the public.