NORMAN — Almost 50 public school employees and mental health professionals gathered Friday for pointers on the implementation of a mental wellness curriculum to be funded in four Oklahoma counties this year.
A grant from the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services will fund the Hazelden Lifelines suicide-prevention curriculum in Cleveland, Oklahoma, Tulsa and Pittsburg counties. Contractors will work with schools in those counties to implement the program.
“We’re trying to reduce the numbers of the four counties with the highest numbers (of suicides),” said mental health department official Julie Geddes.
Employees of Deer Creek Public Schools presented information about their district’s history with the Hazelden curriculum, which they integrated into their one-year-old School Health Wellness Program.
The presentation was part of the 2012 Suicide Prevention Conference, sponsored by Geddes’ department. The conference was held at the National Center for Employee Development at 2701 E. Imhoff Road in Norman.
“Our goal was to show school districts how they could have a mental wellness program in their schools, and Deer Creek had developed one,” said Geddes. “We wanted schools to share that information with other schools to see how they developed a plan and did it very economically: They used interns.”
Geddes, who oversees the Garrett Lee Smith Youth Suicide Prevention Grant, said Deer Creek used doctoral student interns to provide members of the school community with caring people to talk to.
Deer Creek Superintendent Sean McDaniel said using interns allowed the district access to nine people for the price of one.
“Whether it’s divorce, a death in the family or deployment, we wanted to provide a safety net,” McDaniel said. “Our kids are being stretched emotionally, socially and mentally.
“Mental health is the foundation for everything we do, so we have got to take care of our kids.”
Geddes and McDaniel said such programs are important for public schools, as modern school counselors have little time to address students’ mental and emotional needs. Many must focus on overseeing careers and testing.
Norman Public Schools officials could not be reached for comment.
Geddes said anyone going through a life crisis can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8225.
Joel Pruett 366-3540 email@example.com