District employees to undergo suicide prevention training
Starting this school year, guidance counselors and school district administrators from Lee County will receive suicide prevention training from Cape Coral’s C.A.R.E.S. center, the only facility of its kind in Southwest Florida.
Community Awareness in Recognizing and Educating on Suicide was founded by local resident Virginia Cervasio in 2006 after her son committed suicide. For the first couple of years it was run out of Cervasio’s living room, and in 2008 it moved into a new facility in the Cape.
According to statistics from the Lee County Medical Examiner’s Office, 182 people committed suicide last year, almost double the 82 cases in 2007.
The C.A.R.E.S. center refers people to therapists and teaches local workshops on spotting the signs of suicide, including depression, mood changes, withdrawing from friends or family and having feelings of worthlessness.
School district staff will now have the opportunity to learn suicide prevention techniques.
“There was a meeting last week where they met about possibly beginning to train our counselors, administrators and teachers,” said Lee County School Board member Jeanne Dozier. “She is looking at how she can do a rotation for our counselors so they can go in and get that training.”
Cervasio met with Dozier, as well as Jean Campbell, coordinator for Safe and Drug Free Schools, and Superintendent James Browder earlier this week to set the arrangement in motion.
“Hopefully, it will begin this school year in the next few months,” said Dozier. “She is offering this service to the district absolutely free.”
The C.A.R.E.S. center has been offering two different programs in Lee County, including the “In The Dash” program where representatives provide a 30-minute program to students in high schools and the training component for the school district.
Trainers from the prevention center are certified to instruct district staff in the QPR or Question, Persuade and Refer program, a suicide prevention technique used in 48 states.
“It is the CPR of suicide prevention,” said Cervasio. “We just got certified and we got education units for therapists and guidance counselors.”
Cervasio stressed that anyone can be trained to use QPR. She also wants to contact the Charlotte and Collier school systems to offer the same service to them.
The trainings are free of charge, but the center is looking for grants to offset the cost of $2 booklets handed out during the courses.
Funding for C.A.R.E.S. to get QPR certified was donated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and was presented to the center after Cervasio won a grant from the Reader’s Digest “Make It Matter” campaign.
“I think it is going to be a great, great program. It is already taking off,” said Cervasio.
Dozier said the district has lost some students to suicide and she hopes the training will help children.
“I’m looking forward to it and I think it is something that will benefit our counselors,” she said. “Anything we can do to help kids with that is something we need to do.”