Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Linky Tour

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Franciene Sabens of School Counselor Space posted her beautiful office space on her blog and asked others to share their spaces. Recently, I moved to another office in our suite so I decided to go from a more professional office look to a fun and festive look.  Don't judge too harshly as I am still working on the d├ęcor; however, here is what I have to share with you right now. 
I can't wait to see other school counselors' ideas!!

I am adding huge calendar on my window...just put it up on Friday.

I will add all my certificates behind my desk and filling cabinet.

I wanted to incorporate the Reach Higher theme in my office.

I decided to hang butterflies from my ceiling.  Also, I found a lantern at Kirklands over the summer that lights up.

It may be corny, but all the big kids love my sheep.  He has been with me ever since I have become a school counselor. 

I love pictures (like you couldn't tell) because it tells my story.  The picture in the center was painted by my autistic sister when she was 12.  Also, the goat is my favorite painting in the whole world. 

As department head, it is important for my to see what is going on especially when my secretary is away.  I have great view to the outside.  Oh, there are more pictures on the bookcase.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

28 School Counseling Resources for Suicide Awareness: Preparing for World Suicide Awareness Day

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Each year our school participates in World Suicide Awareness Day in September. In the United States alone, the number of youth suicides has reached over 4,000 deaths per year.  According to Peter Wyman, prevention programs beginning in childhood may significantly reduce suicide rates across the lifespan.  Currently in the suicide prevention community, there is a call to change how professionals talk about suicide.  School counselors have an opportunity to change our conversations about suicide prevention from grim pictures about death and violence to a call of hope, help, and action.  Also, it is imperative that school counselors be aware of the dangerous national trends when talking to students about bullying, violence and suicide prevention.
Some best practices in suicide prevention in schools include:
  • Increasing protective factors for children and youth
  • Incorporating a peer helping group to:
  1. Spread messages around school that change acceptable norms about violence, bullying, and suicide.
  2. Promote student pledges to stop violence, bullying, and suicide.
  3. Interrupting harassment among students who are at-risk for bullying and suicide.
  4. Educating new students about norms in the school regarding suicide prevention and violence.
  5. Connecting and making relationships with disconnected students who at-risk.
  6. Breaking silence regarding suicide awareness.
  7. Educating adults about suicide prevention.
  • Promoting resiliency in students who suffer from trauma.
Dangerous Bullying and Suicide National Trends:
  • Education students and staff members that bullied students are suicidal.
  • No Tolerance Programs - punitive programs regarding bullying.
  • Adult training only - adults will handle the problems without students.
  • Peer training only - peers are expected to educate the students without adults.
Promising Programs:
  • Multi-focused programs training both staff and students.
  • Peer leaders changing norms - tolerance and relational connectedness.
  • Use a continuum of responses.
  • Understand that the cyber world and real world are not separate for students.
  • Adults and students work together to create policies and discipline strategies.
Below are great resources to find information, webinars, and resources to start your suicide prevention plan and promote suicide awareness in your school.
Informational Websites:
American Association of Suicidology-contains a timeline, press release, proclamation, and ideas for promoting suicide awareness.
Safe Messaging for Suicide Prevention
Youth Suicide Guide for Schools
Youth Suicide Prevention Guide-New York, community activities, resources, and newsletter.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center-webinars, warning signs, statistics, and resources.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline- a free 24/7 lifeline for people who are in crisis.

International Association for Suicide Prevention-suicidal behavior in adolescents, contagion, postvention, and helplines.

National Institute of Mental Health-publications, resources, statistics, and prevention ideas.

Centers for Disease Control-fact sheets, featured resources, and featured programs.

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide-information about memorials, information for educators, suicide curriculum, and warning signs. myths, stigma and suicide, websites, warning signs, and resources.
Signs of Suicide Brochures

School Based Prevention Screenings

Square-assessments and resources from Australia.
Websites for State-Specific Suicide Data
Gatekeeper Training
Sources of Strength Startup Kit

Sources of Strength Webinars
Suicide Prevention Kit-state resources and websites.
Preventing Suicide Kit High Schools
LGBTQ Youth Workshop
After a Suicide Kit
Youth Suicide Prevention Webinar
Adolescent Suicide Prevention Manual for Native Americans

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Creating A College Aware Culture: Celebrating College Colors Day

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

This is the third year that our school will celebrate College Colors Day. College Color Day is a yearly event where students and staff are encouraged to wear their favorite college team colors to celebrate the college experience. This year's events at our school include:
  • a luncheon tailgate for the front office staff hosted by our peer helpers;
  • a staff door and student locker decoration contest (our principal is giving $50 to the winner of the locker contest);   
  • creating a staff bulletin board called "My College" that shows where each staff member attended school;
  • decking out the lunchroom with college pennants.
  • Signing students up to talk live with a representative via College Week Live.  College Week Live is a great event to promote and advocate for higher education among your high school students.  
Want to learn more about College Week Live?  Go to College Colors Day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

High School Counselor Chat (#hscchat)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Amber Sheppard and Katrina Eisfeldt hosted the first ever High School Counselor chat on August 11th.  The theme of the chat was "New Beginnings for a New School Year".  There was so much excitement by participants that the group decided to have a bimonthly chat every 2nd Monday at 8:30 EST.  If you are interested in joining the next chat, stop by on twitter on September 9th!!

Missed the first chat?  No worries!  Check it out on Storify.

High School Counselor Chat on Storify

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Teen Male Suicide Awareness: A Toolkit for School Counselors

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The first time I met Casey (not his real name) was in 9th grade when he was referred to his school counselor by one of his good friends for making statements about hurting himself.  Casey's counselor was not at school that day; therefore, he was brought to me.  When he walked in my office, it was like a heavy cloud descended into my room.  Physically, the student was a mess...he was hunched over, his brow was furrowed with heavy creases, and he had a blank look on his face.  After delivering my normal informed consent, he immediately let me know that he hated his life and had often thought how much happier everyone would be without him.  Clearly, this student was depressed and had suicidal ideations. 

After giving Casey a suicidal risk assessment, his parents were contacted and asked to pick him up from school to take him for an evaluation.  When the parents arrived, they admitted that they were not shocked by his behavior and were use to his threats.  Apparently, Casey had been depressed since he was young boy and had been seeing a physician on and off for his moodiness.  The parents told me that they felt he would eventually outgrow his malaise so they decided to take him out of counseling.  At that point, the social worker and I both insisted that the student continue mental health services and we would check up on him in a few days. 

Now, fast forward to his junior year. That year, I noticed that Casey came to see his school counselor regularly about his emotional outbursts in class.  Unfortunately, the sad little freshman had now become a very ill tempered young man.  His jaw was always clenched, he never smiled, and if you asked him how he was doing he would often give a negative response (sigh).   Alas, there was a glimmer of hope for Casey. During his junior year, he started dating one of the sweetest and most positive young ladies that I knew at the time.  In fact, the two dated for almost a year until she was worn down by his chronic bad moods and unhappiness.  One day, after having taken all she could bear, she decided to break up with him.  In his quest to win her back, he made many promises that he would be a better man and he would treat her like she deserved.  However, the relationship failed a second time and she broke up with him again. 

Unable to cope with this final rejection, Casey called her on the phone.  While the two were arguing on the phone, he decided to kill himself.  The news of Casey's death spread like wildfire through school and many of Casey's friends were devastated.  However, the saddest part of the story was that everyone predicted that Casey was a young man on the verge of suicide. In fact, many students and staff members said he was a ticking time bomb ready to explode. Truly, this was one of the saddest events that I had ever experienced at a school. 

The story of Casey is not that uncommon in our society.  Everyday, there are thousands of young men who are just one moment away from ending their lives due to depression.  Often we think of teen suicide as a female issue, but the reality is that males successfully complete suicide more often than girls. If you take a look at the list of males who have died from suicide in the news, many of them were very talented, smart, and popular men.

Robin Williams-I grew up watching Robin Williams on Mork and Mindy. His wit and charm made him one of the greatest comedians of his time; however, he hid a dark secret that only close family and friends knew about...he suffered from bouts depression and was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman-The first time I saw Hoffman was in the movie Twister.  Following his early career, in less than stellar films, his career exploded with him getting very poignant roles like Truman Capote.  Hoffman suffered from bouts of drug addiction and one evening ended his life with prescriptions and heroin.

Kurt Cobain-Okay, I admit it, I did not start listening to Nirvana until I learned about his completion of suicide.  In his death, Kurt Cobain became more popular than he ever was when he was alive. His death has made him a famous rock and roll hero for many teens.

Lee Thompson Young-I remember him as the Famous Jett Jackson who grew up to star on a prime time cop show until his death in 2013. Young suffered from bi-polar and took his life during the peak of his career.

Jevon Belcher- Jevon was a professional athlete who was much loved by his teammates.  Belcher was a former player for the Kansas City Chiefs who killed his girlfriend and himself publicly at the team headquarters.

Chris Benoit-Benoit was a famous WWE wrestler who suffered from a brain injury which made have led to mental illness.  In 2007, Benoit killed his wife and son and then committed suicide.

Don Cornelius-Cornelius hosted the popular hit show Soul Train.  As his health declined, Cornelius became depressed and decided to take his own life.

Reality of Male Suicide

From an early age, our society has made it clear to our boys that we do not tolerate weakness.  Little boys are discouraged from crying ("don't let me see your cry" or "cry baby") and to not show emotions ("act like a man" or "be tough").  Unfortunately, many males do not possess the resiliency to deal with life's problems or lack the ability to talk about their emotions with their friends or family. Therefore, discouraged from seeking help, many males turn to risky behaviors, drugs, alcohol, or isolation to cover up their issues (Men and Suicide, by Robert Olson).  This week, one of rock and rolls most famous "jewels", affirmed society's expectations about people experiencing depression. Gene Simmons (bassist for KISS), who is not known for his empathetic nature, was interviewed by In his interview, Simmons stated that he did not get along with others who used drugs and alcohol or threatened suicide. At one point in his interview, he said, "Why are you announcing it? Shut the @#*$ up, have some dignity and jump! You've got the crowd." Gene Simmons Interview
After the interview, there was a huge backlash from fans, radio stations refused to play KISS songs, and he even got a tongue lashing from another rock and roll legend, Nikki Sixx.  Sixx (bassist from Motley Crue) felt that Simmons' words could cause a fan to resort to suicide since his idol said "it is a solution".  Sixx, who struggled with depression and addiction, said that he wants teens to know that there is a way out of their depression and they need to know how to get help. 

Nikki Sixx v Gene Simmons

The stats support the problem of suicide among males. According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2009 1,852 young people from the ages of 13-19 committed suicide.  Of those teens, 78 percent were males and 22 percent were females. Males are less likely to open up about their stress or depression.  Instead of opening up, males tend to express themselves through risky behaviors (Centre for Suicide Prevention, 2011). Since males are less likely to talk about their issues and stressors, school counselors should be aware of the warning signs and risk factors for suicide.

Facts about teen suicide:
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death in teens ages 13-18 and the second leading cause of death in college aged students.
  • 1/4 of all teens who committed suicide were reported to have drugs or alcohol in their system.
  • Nearly all youth who commit suicide had a diagnosable mental health disorder at the time of their death.
  • There are 25 attempted suicides for every one completed suicide.
  • One out of five high school teens have thought about suicide in the past year.
  • Suicidal behaviors and non-suicidal behaviors are the largest reason for emergency room visits.
  • Although handguns account for the largest method of suicide for all genders and ages, more and more teens are now resorting to hanging and pills.

Warning Signs in males:
  • Depression often masked as irritability, anger, or hostility.
  • Risk taking behaviors
  • Avoidance behaviors
Risk Factors for males:
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Social isolation
  • Lethal means to complete suicide
  • Reluctance to seek help
If you realize that you have a male student exhibiting these signs, it is important to identify his protective factors. Protective factors include: social supports, peers, stable home environment, and treatment.

Suicide Contagion

Although Robin Williams was a talented comedian and actor, there are dangers to overexposing his suicide in the media. In a study of teens ages 12-17, researchers found that one person's suicide can influence another person's suicide or thoughts. Dr. Ian Colman found that when the deceased is spoken about in glowing terms and idolized, a vulnerable youth may want others to feel and talk about him or her in the same way.

In Dr. Colman's research of 22,000 teens, he found that teens ages 12-13 were five times more likely to contemplate suicide while teens ages 15-17 were three times more likely to think about committing suicide. From his study, Dr. Colman found that suicidal contagion does exists and he believes that school-based interventions work more effectively than high-risk interventions aimed solely at helping the friends of the deceased.

Like the media, activities at school can contribute to contagion; therefore, it is important that schools create consistent policies regarding the glamorization of a celebrity or student's death.  One example of glamorization that was created and shared was from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The tweet featured a picture of Robin Williams as the Genie being embraced by his former master Aladdin.  Under the picture was the caption, "Genie, you're free." The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says that suicide should never be presented as an option because it can create a formula for suicide contagion.

Controversial Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

In addition to creating guidelines for social media by Suicidologists, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide has created a list of guidelines for schools regarding memorials after a suicide.

Inappropriate memorials for schools include:
  1. Flying the flag at half-staff.
  2. Putting a message about the student's death on the outside school message board or marquee.
  3. Letting students create and wear tee-shirts, clothing, or armbands with the student's picture or information at school.
  4. Planting a tree or garden for that student.
  5. Placing plaques for that student in the school corridors.
  6. Naming rooms or stadiums for that student.
  7. Creating and hanging banners about the student.
  8. Dedicating dances, sporting events, or yearbooks to the student.
  9. Making acknowledgements about that student at graduation.
Appropriate memorials include:
  1. Making donations to crisis centers.
  2. Participating in an event that raises suicide awareness like Suicide Awareness Day.
  3. Buying books in the library that raises awareness about suicide and promotes resiliency.
  4. Creating service based activities that promote students taking care of each other and listening to one another.  One example is to create a peer helping organization at your school trained in peer listening and suicide awareness. National Association of Peer Program Professionals
  5. Implementing a suicide prevention program at your school.
  6. Collaborating with a local suicide coalition or mental health organization.

What can school counselors do to help males in schools?

1.  Create a peer helper group and train them in suicide prevention skills.  Research has shown that peers are more apt to turn to peers during a suicidal crisis than adults.
2.  Go into the classroom and educate students about suicide awareness.  Suicide Awareness Curriculums should include warning signs, risk factors, and resources for students. When selecting a curriculum to use, avoid a one time approach, one that emphasizes suicide as a result of stress, does not include media depictions of suicides, and should include a staff component. 

Here are some suggested curricula to review:
  • Lifelines Curriculum - addresses the whole school by teaching students a consistent model for identifying the signs of suicide and the roles of students in the school community.
  • Gatekeeper Training - online training that will allow students and staff to recognize the signs of suicide and how to refer someone for help.
3.  Seek training in suicide screening instruments. Some examples include the Signs of Suicide Screening Program and the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.
The CSSR has a free training component that you can take online!
4.  Create a resiliency group for students who are identified as "at-risk".   The group can focus on social support, sense of belonging, leadership, coping skills, and problem solving skill building.
5.  Download the Preventing-Suicide-A Toolkit for High Schools from SAMSHA. This toolkit can assists schools in implementing strategies to present suicides.
6.  Download the After a Suicide Toolkit for Schools which gives guidance to schools on how to handle and prevent a difficult situation from occurring following a student suicide.  Also, this is a great kit to prevent contagion.
7.  Consider sponsoring or participating in an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk to raise awareness for staff, parents, and students about suicide in your community.
8.  Think about joining a local suicide coalition to receive free training and information.  My local chapter sponsors Mental Health First Aid Training, Gatekeeper Training, Lifelines Suicide Awareness, and much more!!
9. Educate yourself and your colleagues!  Here are some free resources:
10. Participate in World Suicide Awareness Day on September 10th in your school.

I hope you will become more informed on youth suicide as it can make a big difference for your students!  Also, I would love to hear strategies and trainings you have implemented in your school community.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Whose on First? A List of School Counseling Tools and Resources to Help lst Generation Students Reach College

Thursday, August 7, 2014

If you attended the ASCA Conference or followed the #NOTATASCA twitter posts, school counselors were inspired by the First Lady to reach higher and help first generation students complete their post secondary education.  In this post, I would like to share some of the tools and resources that school counselors can use to help your students reach this goal.

Educational Resources

I'm First - Tool for First Generation Students to reach their dream of post-secondary options.


Hear Us Out Project - In 2010, a survey was given to high school students in Seattle and Chattanooga regarding college.  The results from this survey include information that can help first generation students in their post secondary plans.
Some tips for school counselors:
  • Start planning for post secondary goals before the junior or senior year.
  • Provide more education about financial aid.
  • Talk to all students about post-secondary options early as possible.
  • Include the family of lower income students in your conversations.
  • Create a college going culture in your school.
  • Provide mentors for first generation students like the Near Peer Program.
  • Educate students on the tasks that need to be completed each year.
College Goal Sunday - Consider holding a free event to assist families in applying for the FAFSA. 
Each year, our county participates in this free event  where families are invited to attend.  At the event, parents and students are able to get free assistance in completing the FAFSA, offered financial aid resources for college, and students can even win a scholarship for attending the event!
Financial Aid Toolkit for School Counselors - Counselors can receive free training and support to assist families in completing financial aid for college.
Education Planner - Use this free resource to help high school students learn and explore careers. Students can see the fastest growing jobs in the nation, career videos, and take career assessments.
Cappex - Assist students in finding scholarships that match their interests and strengths.

College Grazing - A resource that provides free surveys and provides lesson plans for school counselors to use with students in grades 9-12.

College Week Live - Free resource to help students connect with college admission counselors.
Apply to College Early Event - Create and hold an event to help seniors to apply to college early.  At this event, invite college representatives and volunteers.  We have a state-wide event each year, but consider creating your own using our state guide.
National College Fairs - Free college fairs around the US that allow students to meet and talk with college recruiters.
College Access and Success for Students Experiencing Homelessness Toolkit - Assist homeless students with the financial aid process and much more with this toolkit.  There is even information about what to do if parents cannot or will not sign the FAFSA.
Advising Undocumented Students - Need advice on helping undocumented students attend college?  Get all the information you need in this document.
Unaccompanied Youth Toolkit for High School Counselors - Learn about McKinney Vento and how it applies to unaccompanied minors trying to attend high school.  Also includes information about the McKinney Vento FAFSA Week event.
Providing Effective Financial Aid Assistance to Students from Foster Care - This document provides guidance on helping students in foster care or who are unaccompanied receive financial aid.

 Project Grad - Assists low income students with academic, community, and financial assistance in the following states: Georgia, New Jersey, California, Ohio, Texas, Alaska, New York, and Tennessee.
 Military One -Providing financial aid information for children of military families.

 Mental Health Resources

 Helping Borderlanders - Resources to help immigrant children access mental health services.
Refugee Services Toolkit - Provides resources for counselors and mental health clinicians when working with refugees.
Working with Military Families During Times of Deployment - Course for professionals who work with families in times of deployment.

Other Partners

College Advising Corp - College advisors work with schools to increase the number of first generation students to college.
Do you have additional resources you can share with other school counselors? 

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Calendar of Social Campaigns for School Counselors

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Each year our counseling office, along with our peer helping program, participates in campaigns that bring attention to social issues in our school.  Whether you run a peer helping program or just want to bring attention to these social issues, you may want to consider adding some or all these events to your counseling program.


It Can Wait - Have your students take the "It Can Wait" pledge to encourage them to refrain from texting and driving.  Also, when you sign up, you receive free information to post around your school and a driving simulation for your students. 

Suicide Prevention Week - Encourage students to recognize the signs of suicide in friends and family members.  Encourage students with lifeline cards,  educate them about suicide prevention, and share free resources for your counseling office.


Red Ribbon Week - Download the 2014 Red Ribbon Week materials about drug and alcohol safety and prevention.  Red Ribbon Week is October 23rd-31st.

America's Safe School Week - Students Against Violence Everywhere encourages schools to educate students about school violence and how it can be prevented by students.

National Bullying Prevention Week - Download educator toolkits and activities for your school to educate students about bullying prevention.

Mix It Up - Sponsored by Teaching Tolerance, Mix It Up Day encourages students to cross social boundaries at lunch to meet other students.  Download the Mix It Up kit from Teaching Tolerance.

Above the Influence - Above the Influence provides free videos, posters, and handouts to use in your schools to encourage students to be above the influence of drugs.

Teen Read Week - Partner with your librarian to encourage your teens to read for fun.

Conflict Resolution Day - Sponsored by the Association for Conflict Resolution each year, Conflict Resolution Day encourages schools to promote conflict resolution skills like mediation, non violent communication, and negotiation. 


National White Ribbon Day Although celebrated by our friends in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, National White Ribbon Day is led by guys to prevent violence against women.  It would be great to get male student leaders, athletes, and teachers to stand against dating and sexual violence against females in their schools.

World Kindness Day - On November 13th, give your students ideas of how to show kindness around their school.

Drowsy Driving Week -Download free materials and videos to educate students and parents about the dangers of drowsy driving.

Great American Smokeout - Sponsored by the American Cancer Foundation, the Great American Smokeout educates and encourages staff, parents, and students to give up smoking for one day every November.


National Impaired Driving Awareness Month - Each December, the NIDA campaign educates students about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs. 

Stayed tuned for more awareness campaigns in 2015!