How Missouri is Taking Action to Prevent Youth Suicide Across the State

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The Missouri Department of Mental Health is dedicated to the prevention, treatment, and promotion of public understanding for Missourians with mental illnesses, developmental disabilities, and addictions. Last year, they worked with the Youth Programs Team at Screening for Mental Health to host an SOS Certified Training Institute for their prevention regional support center staff. Across the state, staff working in these support centers provide technical assistance and training to their local communities on many different topics, including suicide prevention. Receiving many requests for suicide prevention resources, the Missouri DMH saw the SOS Certified Training Institute’s train-the-trainer model as one that would work well to blanket the state with this critical information.

With the state’s support for the SOS Certified Training Institute and evidence-based SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Programs for schools, regional support center staff are able to train school staff and parents about the importance of educating youth about depression and suicide, and are able to provide this program to schools in their community.

We spoke with several regional support center staff who were trained at the CTI about the impact they’ve already seen:

Vicky Ward -Regional Support Center Staff
Manager of Prevention Services at Tri-County Mental Health Services, Inc.

Please describe your position as it relates to youth suicide prevention in Missouri:   
My position is focused on prevention services for substance use and other risky behavior. Suicide shares so many of the same risk factors as use of alcohol, nicotine products or other drugs. We also know that when someone is depressed, they often turn to drugs (self-medication) prior to taking their life.  The topics have a direct relationship.

Have you provided SOS Trainings after becoming certified? If so, how has it been received?
Yes. The training is so well received and the first school “Trusted Adult” training I did created so much passion that the school formed a team that is now meeting regularly to address suicide prevention strategies.  They also implemented the classroom workshops and brief screening.

Have schools in your area adopted the SOS Program as a result of your training?
Yes, not only did the school I mentioned above adopt SOS, but another school also implemented the classroom workshops.  Two additional schools have scheduled the school Trusted Adult training for February with school workshops to follow down the road.  I’ve also met with two of our larger districts who are in the midst of adopting the SOS Program.

What sort of impact have you seen as a result of these trainings?
More adults are trained to have their eyes/ears ready to help anyone who is showing signs of suicide and when implemented at the classroom level, many students have come forward to get the help that they needed, thus curbing potential youth suicides.   

Alaina Williams -Regional Support Center Staff
Youth Mental Health First Aid Project Coordinator and Prevention Specialist at Community Partnership of Ozarks

Please describe where you work, your position as it relates to youth suicide prevention in Missouri:
Community Partnership of Ozarks (CPO) is a non-profit in Springfield, Missouri that facilitates and promotes the building of resilient children, healthy families, and strong neighborhoods and communities through collaboration, programming, and resource development. As a Prevention Specialist, I work with local coalitions to promote substance use and violence prevention efforts, specifically with the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Southwest Missouri who have been trained as SOS Program Implementers.

Why did you attend the SOS Certified Training Institute?
I attended the SOS Certified Training Institute in order to better address the increase in youth suicides that we have seen in Missouri, specifically in the southwest region. A program that educates and empowers youth to seek help for themselves and/or their peers is vital to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness and suicide, as well as reducing youth suicides, overall.

Have you provided SOS Trainings after becoming certified?  How did it feel to be able to provide this training?
Yes. As a Certified SOS Trainer, I have been able to correct common misconceptions about suicide, in turn opening up the lines of communication between community members and youth. By empowering both youth and adults, alike, to have a conversation about such a difficult subject, I know that I could be saving a life, and to me, that is the most important goal I have.

Have schools in your area adopted the SOS Program as a result of your training?
Some school districts have already adopted the SOS Program and CPO has scheduled multiple trainings over the next year for several area schools interested in getting their staff trained as trusted adults and program implementers, including the largest accredited school district in Missouri.

What sort of impact have you seen as a result of these trainings?
We have only been hosting trainings for the last few months but we are hoping that as we continue to train adults and youth in the area, we will see a reduction in youth suicides, as well as an increase in youth reaching out to trusted adults.

Missouri’s Department of Mental Health has already trained over 300 people in the SOS Program so far. With new legislation that has recently passed regarding suicide prevention training, they are continually getting more requests for this critical program.

Interested in hosting a CTI in your state or community? Contact us at

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