• SOS Signs of Suicide Program

    Program Description

    The teen years are often a roller-coaster ride of emotions, with this time being especially susceptible to wide variations in mood.  It is easy to misread depression as normal adolescent turmoil; depression appears to be occurring at a much earlier age, and the past decade has seen teen suicide rates double.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death for teenagers, and there are often warning signs that are overlooked to prevent these tragedies.  To increase awareness of the signs of depression and suicide risk, Briar Woods High School will be implementing the SOS Signs of Suicide Program during the school year to ninth graders enrolled in health classes.  The program educates students by helping teens understand the connection between untreated mental illness and suicide and by teaching students how to deal with these signs as a mental health emergency.  This program uses video clips to present situations and to generate discussion about identifying and responding to signs of depression and suicide. The program will by facilitated by school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors.

    Suicide Prevention



    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. Non-emergency appointments can be made at 703-771-5100.   


    Also, 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


    In an emergency, call 911 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) deputy or officer.  

    • SOS Friends for Life: Preventing Teen Suicide Trailer 

      In addition to the SOS Signs of Suicide High School Program, LCPS also implements
      • SOS Signs of Suicide Second ACT Program for upperclassmen preparing to take charge of their mental health as they transition to college and workforce
      • SOS Signs of Suicide Gatekeeper Training Program for engaging school and community’s trusted adults in a discussion on preventing youth suicide  
      The SOS Signs of Suicide program goals are straightforward:
      • Help youth understand that depression is a treatable illness
      • Decrease suicide and suicide attempts by increasing knowledge and adaptive attitudes about depression among students
      • Educate youth that suicide is not a normal response to stress but rather, a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression or other mental illness
      • Increase help-seeking by providing students with specific action steps to take if they are concerned about themselves or others and identifying the resources available to them
      • Encourage peer-to-peer communication about the ACT help-seeking message
      • Reduce stigma associated with mental health problems by integrating the topic into existing health curriculums


    • As part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention, Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) developed suicide prevention screening guidelines for licensed school personnel to use in contacting parents or, if conditions warrant, Child Protective Services when they believe a student is  at risk for attempting suicide.  The guidelines are consistent with the Code of Virginia (22.1-272.1) and are derived from the Virginia Department of Education's Suicide Prevention Guidelines (2003) document.  


      Suicide can be preventable if, as a critical first step, we can identify individuals who are most at risk for dying by suicide and direct them to the help they need.  LCPS utilizes the most evidence-supported tool for suicide screening in 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 that anyone can ask. 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 people:

      • Whether and when they have thought about suicide (ideation)
      • What actions they have taken — and when — to prepare for suicide
      • Whether and when they attempted suicide or began a suicide attempt that was either interrupted by another person or stopped of their own volition


      LCPS licensed school professionals (School Counselors, School Psychologists, School Social Workers, and Student Assistance Specialists) are all 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



    • 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:

      1. Talking about or making plans for suicide
      2. Expressing hopelessness about the future
      3. Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
      4. 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


    • 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:  
      1. Ask if they are okay or if they are having thoughts of suicide
      2. Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior
      3. Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
      4. Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard
      5. Tell them they are not alone
      6. Let them know that there are treatments available that can help
      7. 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.