RBEMS addresses suicide, depression, bullying

Editor’s Note: Tom Driscoll is an eighth-grade journalism student at Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School. He covered RBEMS’ Suicide Prevention Month activities this month and contributed the following report.

Last year, Houston eighth-grader Asher Brown killed himself. His family said he was “bullied too death.”

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for kids in middle school and high school, and can be prevented if friends are aware of the warning signs and know what to do, according to the National Association of School Psychologists’ website.

That’s why this month, Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School is conducting suicide prevention training for seventh and eighth-grade students.

The program, mandatory for seventh-graders and recommended for eighth, is designed to raise awareness of the warning signs and causes for suicide, and preventive measures.

“We teach children warning signs for suicide and depression. We also teach kids what to do,” said Dr. Rebecca Bialopotocki, the school psychologist.

Students are taught the steps they should take when they know of someone who is considering suicide, using an easy to remember acronym, ACT:

• A — acknowledge the problem, the depression and suicidal thoughts of the person;  

• C — show that you care about the person;

• T — tell a friend or a trusted adult.

But the program does not solely concentrate on suicide prevention. “Every child’s life is important … even [those] students who don’t want to die, but cut who themselves, are a focus,” Bialopotocki said.

Bullying is also touched on in the program, albeit lightly, according to Bialopotocki.

Bullies who beat kids up for their lunch money don’t really exist in today’s world. Cyber, mental, and verbal forms of bullying are more common.

According to a study from bullyingstatistics.org, bullying victims are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims. Suicide is also connected to sexting, cyber, physical and emotional bullying.

“I feel that bullying [occurs] when students or adults are not aware of their own self-worth … so to change or stop this action, people need to learn the acceptance of others and find ways of loving themselves,” said April White, an RBEMS counselor.

“Bullying is not tolerated on any level,” she added. The school counselors and psychologist are confident that this program will make a difference to the student body. “I’ve had kids come in and say that it saved their lives,” Bialopotocki said.