SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - School social workers say the number of students who mention suicide is on the rise. So, the more staff members who know how to help, the safer nearby schools can be.
Godley Station School in Pooler is the largest school in the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System teaching students in grades K through eighth. Almost every employee working at the school receives this special training and knows exactly what to say and do if a student or another faculty member ever mentions the word suicide.
The State of Georgia already requires each certified staff member to receive annual suicide prevention training through the Jason Flatt Act.
The Savannah-Chatham County Public School System says they’re taking it one step further by requiring all certified faculty members and most classified staff members to receive the special training. The lessons are provided by the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council who is working to make sure many organizations and community partners know how to keep someone safe.
The school system’s Human Resource Director, Heather Bilton, says students seek comfort in different employees, and not everyone is going to go to a teacher or guidance counselor to talk about their problems.
The school system is making sure additional employees are trained, like bus drivers and cafeteria workers, just in case a student comes to them.
Bilton knows first-hand what it’s like to lose a loved one from suicide. She lost a son to suicide in 2013.
"Yeah, anything we can to help. I never want a family to go through what we went through. No one can ever replace Justin," Bilton said.
School social workers tell WTOC it's important that all schools, even the lower grades, have these trained employees because they're seeing more younger students talk about suicide.
When a student mentions suicide, the school system says parents are notified immediately and a plan is put in place to keep that child safe. Also, as more employees are hired through the school system, they will receive the prevention training.
Anyone who needs help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or go to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s website.