Parents learn about teen suicides

Marianne Schrom gives the "More Than Sad" presentation for suicide prevention on Tuesday at Broadalbin-Perth High School. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

BROADALBIN — Parents of Broadalbin-Perth came together on Tuesday for the “More Than Sad” program presented by Marianne Schrom.

Schrom spoke to the parents about mental health, suicide statistics, suicide prevention and how to recognize signs of depression in their children.

“My goal for our time together tonight is that we become a little more comfortable with a really uncomfortable topic,” Schrom said.

The “More Than Sad” program is part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

According to the AFSP website, the “More Than Sad” program has helped and taught students, parents and teachers how to be smart about mental health.

Parents at the "More Than Sad" presentation are shown on Tuesday at Broadalbin-Perth High School. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

According to the website, “More Than Sad” teaches teens to recognize signs of depression in themselves and in their peers. The program teaches parents how to recognize signs of depression, initiate a conversation with their child and get them help. The program teaches educators how recognize signs of mental health and refer students for help.

Schrom is a former Broadalbin-Perth teacher. Being back in the school and giving the presentation on such a serious topic brought back some emotional memories for her.

All in a one year Schrom has lost a brother, a student and a member of the community because of suicide.

“Unfortunately this is a topic that chose me. It’s not something I studied in school, but it’s life has taught me the things that I’m going to be sharing with you tonight,” Schrom said.

Schrom captured the audience’s attention by starting her presentation giving out two Lifesaver mints to everyone in the room.

The "More Than Sad" presentation done by Marianne Schrom on Tuesday at Broadalbin-Perth High School is shown. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

The Lifesavers were meant to be a piece of symbolism so the parents at the presentation could be someone’s lifesaver.

“Anytime hopefully you see a Lifesaver candy from now on, yes it will help freshen our breath, but also can be symbolic that by you being here tonight hopefully you never have to use these skills in real life, but if you do, know that you are a lifesaver,” Schrom said. “Whether it be for yourself or somebody that you care about.”

Some of the things Schrom discussed in her presentation were teen depression and what it might look like, how to identify risk factors, if a student might be at higher risk than others or are thinking about suicide or acting on suicidal thoughts, how to seek treatment and that treatment might look different for different people and how to talk to a child about depression and possibly suicide.

Schrom also showed a few videos during the presentation as well. Two of the videos were of Dr. Cristine Moutier, the chief medical officer for American Foundation Prevention for Suicide talking about the signs of suicide. And the third video was one of the “More Than Sad” films, “Teen Depression.”

“These aren’t just numbers that we’re talking about. These are actually family members. These are actually community members that unfortunately, Broadalbin-Perth like so many other communities, is not immune to,” Schrom said. “Sadly there is no vaccine that can prevent suicide.”

Schrom played one of “More Than Sad” films, “Teen Depression” for the parents during the presentation.

The 25 minute film showed four teens who showed different signs and symptoms of depression. The first teen no longer wanted to hang out with her friends, her grades at school were dropping and all she wanted to do was stay in bed. The second teen had serious anxiety before test and while doing homework. The third teen became angry and used alcohol to solve his problems. And the fourth teen was bullied.

Schrom said the video would be shown on Monday to the high school students.

According to Moutier, who spoke in one of the videos Schrom played, some of the warning signs for suicide are: changes in behavior, withdrawing socially, isolating from normal life activities, becoming agitated, increase in anxiety and changes in sleep patterns or appetite.

Other signs could include them expressing thoughts about life not being worth living, or thoughts of ending their life. And some words someone might use is, “I’m worthless “ or “I’m better off dead.”

“Sometimes [the warning signs] hard to recognize,” Schrom said. “Sometimes it can be dismissed or missed because it’s just a kid being a kid. Moody behavior, specifically if they’re in middle school or ninth grade, or it’s laziness, kids sleeping all the time, that’s typical teenage behavior. If this is a change in behavior for them, if this is out of character for them, those might show us that they might be at higher risk.”

Schrom said some ways to help someone who has depression or is at high risk for suicide is to try talking to them, ask without judgment. She said any type of healthy habit can help, getting professional help, or sometimes going on medication and be patient and understanding of them. “Seeking help is a sign of strength,” Schrom said.

A phrase Schrom used a few times throughout the presentation is “check up from the neck up” for when it comes to someone taking care of their mental health.

Another way to help if someone is suicidal is by calling 911, or taking them to the emergency room, or calling the national suicide prevention hotline 1-800-273-8255.