A spotlight on PERSAD CENTER'S Safe Spaces Program
The statistics are shocking: Suicide is the third leading cause of death in the United States for youth ages 10-24, and for college-aged students, suicide is the second leading cause of death.
For LGBTQ youth, the numbers are even worse: While 1 in every 15 high school students attempts suicide each year, 7 out of every 15 LGBTQ students attempts suicide. And the most telling statistic of all: LGBTQ youth from families that reject them are eight times more likely to have attempted suicide than LGBTQ peers from accepting families. It’s plain to see why there is a need for raising awareness each September during National Suicide Prevention Month.
The impact of training and intervention
PERSAD CENTER, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Bureau of Family Health, is working to bring a message of prevention and awareness to all youth – with a special focus on reaching queer youth – through the Safe Spaces program.
Using a multi-leveled approach, Safe Safes is designed to provide training, intervention, community awareness and, of course, clinical services. Members of PERSAD’S training staff work with health and human service providers to help them become more effective at reaching LGBTQ youth and reducing the risks of suicide.
Unique to the program is direct interaction and training with youth themselves. Partnering with high schools and colleges throughout Western Pennsylvania (from Erie County to Washington County) the Safe Spaces coordinator implements the award-winning national prevention Signs of Suicide (S.O.S) program. Studies reveal that young people will disclose to a peer about suffering from depression and considering suicide long before they talk to an adult. S.O.S. teaches young people how to recognize warning signs in their friends (and themselves) and the vital importance of helping their friends find a trusted adult to talk to.
Protective factors – such as peer support and non-judgmental gathering places – can often save a child’s life. Safe Spaces works to create youth-centered meeting spaces, activities and programming where young people will feel less alone, and connected to friends and support systems. As the program gathers more and more participants, youth-led community awareness events bring the message of prevention, hope and support to a wider audience.
How you can help
PERSAD CENTER’S Safe Spaces Program offers a class-period-length training, free of charge, for all youth ages 14-21. Helping us bring this program to a classroom or after school meeting can only increase the impact of our work to raise awareness and prevent suicide. For information, contact Safe Spaces coordinator Ted Hoover at 412-518-1515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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