Using Gaggle to Combat its State’s High Suicide Rates
A leading concern for schools nationwide, youth behavioral health is of particular importance for educational institutions in Idaho. The second-leading cause of death for Idahoans aged 15- to 34-years-old, suicide touches many educational institutions and their students and families every year in a state where the suicide rate is 58% higher than the national average.
Nampa School District is no exception and is working to help students successfully balance the demands of a good education with healthy behaviors in a region of the country where that’s not always easy to attain. “The Intermountain West has the highest suicide rates nationally, year after year,” said Kathleen Tuck, Director of Communications and Community Relations.
“For years,” commented Tuck, “we’ve been addressing the problem and coming up with different ways to handle it. In our area, certain school districts have experienced multiple suicides within a year’s time, so it’s something we’re very aware of.”
Listening to the Chatter
For Nampa School District, the need for a more targeted suicide prevention approach came about 18 months ago, following the death of a student whose parents both worked in the district. “There was already work happening around this, but not with the intentionality that emerged after this particular
incident,” said Tuck.
The school district and its superintendent immediately convened a group to start assessing the crisis to see how it could be more formally addressed. Nampa School District called upon community members for help during this process, which included an expert panel Q&A on some of the myths behind suicide.
Concurrently, the district itself was working internally to better address suicide prevention. Focused on a multi-sector, multi-faceted approach, the district learned about the Gaggle student safety platform and was instantly interested in learning more about it. In place for two years, the platform helps the district identify students who might be in trouble and in need of help.
“Our counselors and teachers are all trained on what to look for and have intercepted several communications and secured help for the students who were involved,” Tuck explained. “One of our main uses of the platform involves listening to a lot of the digital chatter that prompts us to intervene and stop suicides.”
“We’re Not Going to Let This Happen”
Knowing the risks that its students face, and the fact that their socioeconomic status may be more challenging than that of students in other areas, the Nampa School District staff take a proactive approach to preventing suicides, self-harm, violence against others, and other tragic events from occurring. “We decided that we’re not just going to sit back and let this happen,” stated Tuck. “We’re going to figure out a way to deal with it effectively.”
Gaggle has proven itself as a valuable tool in this mission. “It’s a way of helping to identify the high-risk students; we have counselors and administrators who are on the lookout,” Tuck explained. The district also recently launched a new suicide prevention training program that’s focused on ensuring that everyone in the district knows the signs to watch out for and how to successfully intervene as needed.
The district has also done a great job of getting community buy-in for these and other behavioral health-related efforts. “Our goal is to keep kids safe. Nampa is a growing community with some pretty old-fashioned values,” Tuck said. “We’re just capitalizing on that and reminding people that it’s not just the Nampa School District and the city of Nampa. We’re all one here, so what happens in our schools is really an issue for the whole community.”