Watching for at-risk kids

The North Dakota Center for Persons with Disabilities at Minot State University will be offering training to middle school teachers in the state to help them identify kids at risk of committing suicide.

Christine Brigden, project coordinator, said NDCPD received a contract from the North Dakota Department of Health, Suicide Prevention Division, to implement the program.

The program will meet new North Dakota requirements for mandatory professional development related to youth suicide-risk indicators, appropriate staff responses and referral resources for teachers and administrators. The program will launch Monday.

Brigden said NDCPD will be contacting all the middle schools in North Dakota about the program. The training is a one-hour session with an avatar-based computer program called “Kognito-At Risk” and will be offered online.

“It kind of walks them through an interactive computer program,” said Brigden. The program will present the teachers with different choices. If they choose one answer, the screen will show an outcome, positive or negative, that may help them reconsider what actions to take.

“The 2011 North Dakota Middle School Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 19.2 percent of middle school youth seriously thought about killing themselves and 5 percent did try to kill themselves,” said Christine Brigden, project coordinator. “These survey results support the importance of this training. An investment of one hour in training may help save so many young lives.”

Teachers who are trained to recognize changes in a child’s behavior, such as a student who has began neglecting his appearance or whose grades are slipping, may be able to ask questions that will head off suicidal behavior.

“Basically, they want to get them talking to the counselor in the school,” said Brigden.

The program is free to personnel who work with middle school students and will meet North Dakota requirements for mandatory professional development related to youth suicide-risk indicators, appropriate staff responses and referral resources for teachers and administrators.