Suicide Prevention - ACT
Emergency: How Do I Access Help Now?
If anyone is harming themselves now or has just harmed themselves, call 911 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) deputy or officer.
There also are resources available 24 hours, 7 days a week for youth experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts or other behavioral crises. Through Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services, help is available at 703-777-0320 for youth experiencing an immediate and severe emotional crisis. The Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center, located at 102 Heritage Way, Leesburg, Virginia, is open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, and mental health professionals are available for anyone in crisis.
Additionally, all Loudoun County emergency rooms can assess for suicide risk and make recommendations for appropriate follow-up care:
StoneSprings Pediatric ER
24440 Stone Springs Blvd.
Dulles, VA 20166
Inova Virts Miller Family Emergency and Trauma Center
Inova Loudoun Hospital
44045 Riverside Parkway
Leesburg, VA 20176
703-858-6040Inova Children’s Emergency Room at Loudoun Hospital
44045 Riverside Parkway
Leesburg, VA 20176
703-858-6048Wheeler Family Emergency Department
224 Cornwall St.
Leesburg, VA 20176
703-737-7520Inova HealthPlex – Ashburn
22505 Landmark Court
Ashburn, VA 20148
571-612-6400Also, there are free, confidential 24/7 supports available:
- PRS CrisisLink: 703-527-4077 or text "CONNECT" to 855-11
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- SAMHSA National Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)
- Children's Regional Crisis Response (CR2): 844-NCrisis (627-4747) in English and Espanol
- Hopeline: Chat at http://www.hopeline.com or call 800-784-2433
Youth Suicide Warning Signs
Leaders from the American Association of Suicidology and the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide formed a national consensus around youth warning signs on suicide derived from the best available evidence. According to an expert panel on youth suicide (www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org), the following signs may mean that a youth is at risk for suicide, particularly in youth who have attempted suicide in the past. Risk is greater if the warning sign is:
- new or has increased, and
- possibly related to an anticipated or actual emotionally painful event, loss, or change.
Finally, the presence of more than one of the following warning signs may increase a youth's risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors in the near future:
- Talking about or making plans for suicide
- Expressing hopelessness about the future
- Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
- Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
- Withdrawal from or changes in social connections/situations
- Changes in sleep (increase/decrease)
- Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
- Recent increased agitation or irritability
How Do I Respond: Tips for Talking About Suicide?
If these warning signs are present, friends or parents can help by acknowledging these serious signs of depression or suicide, letting him or her know you care, and informing a trusted adult who can help:
- Ask if they are okay or if they are having thoughts of suicide
- Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior
- Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
- Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard
- Tell them they are not alone
- Let them know that there are treatments available that can help
- If you are or they are concerned, guide them to additional professional help
Never leave someone alone who has threatened to harm him or herself or promise to keep it a secret. Get help immediately.
SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program
Loudoun County Public Schools implements the SOS Signs of Suicide® Suicide Prevention Program, the only universal school-based suicide prevention program that has demonstrated a significant reduction in self-reported suicide attempts by 40-64%. (Aseltine et al., 2007 & Schilling et al., 2016).
The program goals are straightforward:
- Decrease suicide and suicide attempts by increasing knowledge and adaptive attitudes about depression and mental health;
- Teach our students to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression, self-injurious behavior, and potential suicidality in themselves and others;
- Educate youth that suicide is not a normal response to problems but a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression or other mental illnesses; and
- Encourage help-seeking by teaching teens to respond to the signs of suicide as a mental health emergency and to take specific action steps to help prevent a tragedy through the Acknowledge, Care, Tell (ACT) protocol.
Implementation of the program in the classroom takes as little as one class period (about 60 minutes). Students view a twenty-minute video that combines vignettes demonstrating the ACT (Acknowledge, Care, Tell) message with discussion of the signs and symptoms of depression and suicide. After viewing, school psychologists, social workers, and counselors guide the students in a discussion of the video. The presenters make themselves available for follow-up with students who wish to speak with them following the classroom lesson.
The Signs of Suicide program also includes resources for training faculty, staff, and parents on how to recognize when a student is in crisis and how to respond using the ACT protocol.
Suicide Risk Screening
As part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) developed suicide prevention and risk screening guidelines for LCPS school personnel to follow when it is suspected that a student may be at risk of suicide. The guidelines are consistent with the Code of Virginia (22.1-272.1) and are derived from various professional resources including the Virginia Department of Education's Suicide Prevention Guidelines (2020).
Suicide can be preventable if, as a critical first step, we can identify individuals who are most at risk and direct them to the help they need. LCPS utilizes an evidence-supported tool for suicide screening, the Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS), as part of our broader suicide prevention program. The C-SSRS assesses suicide risk through a series of simple, plain-language questions. The answers help trained school professionals identify whether someone is at risk for suicide, assess the severity and immediacy of that risk, and gauge the level of support that the person needs. Users of the C-SSRS tool ask:
- Whether and when a student has thought about suicide (ideation)
- What actions the student has taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
- Whether and when the student has attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped on their own
LCPS licensed school professionals (School Counselors, School Psychologists, School Social Workers, and Student Assistance Specialists) are trained to administer the C-SSRS and interpret the results.
For more information about the C-SSRS, please link to the following website: Columbia Suicide Severity Rating Scale.