New Ventures Charter School Counseling Team Speaks Out on Suicide Prevention

For the New Ventures and Integration Charter Schools family, “see something, say something” has taken on an entirely new meaning. 

With the spread of the COVID-19 virus, there has been an emphasis on the importance of physical health within our country in the past year. However, as the pandemic continues, there is a critical need for mental health awareness as well. Studies show that the stress of isolation and social distancing has had a significant impact on the rise of loneliness, anxiety, sadness, depression, and even suicidal ideation in children and teens. 

In our own school, one of our students caught the attention of a classmate after beginning to exhibit concerning behavior on social media. 

Sensing that something might be wrong, the bystander student did not hesitate to reach out to our counseling team after hours for assistance. 

Following the New Ventures core values of relationships before rigor, love before lectures, patience before programs, and grace before grades, our specialists were readily open to deescalating the situation.

Director of Counseling at ICS, Diane DiSalvo has over 30 years of experience working with youth and families as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). In response to the incident, DiSalvo writes about the worth of understanding the indicators of a depressed or suicidal individual. “Some signs to watch out for are expressions of wanting to harm or kill themselves either verbally or in writing,” she advises. “This might sound more passive like “I wish I was dead,” “I don’t want to be here anymore,” or they may even joke about it.”

Actions that seem out of character might be another signal for help. “You may hear that the person is suddenly preoccupied with death or dying and is exhibiting reckless behavior that may put them in physical danger,” says DiSalvo. 

“There may be feelings of hopelessness or being trapped. Often they feel like a burden, expressing how everyone would be better off without them. Sometimes there is withdrawal from friends and family or a visible change in their personality. Saying goodbye or expressing suicidal thoughts on social media is something we are seeing more often in our youth.”

It may be difficult for those who are not struggling with mental health conditions to understand the events leading up to a suicide attempt. Without research, one might even attach stigmas to a person who is merely calling out for comfort. According to DiSalvo, one of the key factors when dealing with someone who is suffering is empathy. “Those considering suicide often feel overwhelmed with their problems and see no other solution other than killing themselves. It’s important for them to know that there are people out there who care and, with help and support, they will be able to feel better and solve their problems in another way.” 

New Ventures Principal Ryan Melis has been directly involved in the case since the initial call. “Students are adopted into “school families,” and through these smaller, family-style gatherings, topics such as friendships, relationships, living situations, and overall mental well-being are addressed,” he writes. “Students are supported all hours of the day with every level of staff communicating on a daily basis about their academic, social and emotional standing. Understanding that all students learn differently and each of our Stingrays has a variety of needs beyond school, we pride ourselves knowing that we can be flexible when supporting our students’ goals in and beyond high school.”

“If you know of someone who is exhibiting signs of serious depression or is considering suicide, it is important to let them know that you are concerned about them and by immediately informing a parent, teacher, school counselor, or another trusted adult,” DiSalvo says. “Many people think that talking about suicide will cause suicide, when in fact, talking about it directly is what can actually save that person’s life.”

Read more from our feature in the Staten Island Advance, here.

Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention, and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.