Last month, AUSD in collaboration with the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation hosted a two day conference on the leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds: suicide. The purpose of this workshop was to educate AUSD school administrators, counselors, therapists and others about how to communicate to students that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem and to implement certain techniques to combat this issue.
The Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation was created four years ago and is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about teen suicide in the hope of saving lives. This establishment, create by Ron Silverman, was created as a result his son’s tragic suicide at the age of 18. The foundation offers free assemblies and programs for middle schools, high schools and colleges in the greater Los Angeles area. The organization and AUSD have been in partnership for years and has hosted assemblies at each high school in AUSD.
The workshop on August 7th featured Ron Silverman as the keynote speaker, as he spoke to an audience of 120 AUSD staff members. One of the main topics he spoke about was the importance of recognizing the risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior in students. Silverman sees this as one of the most important aspects of suicide prevention because it allows teachers, counselors and other first responders to be proactive in getting the student the help he or she needs to overcome thoughts of suicide. Attendees were also trained on how to discuss the issue of suicide with students by using language that avoids reinforcing the stigma, which can often worsen the symptoms. Silverman also encouraged being good listeners, being persistent, proactive and non-judgmental when interacting with students about suicide.
Furthermore, an emphasis was put on the extremely important role that teachers play in preventing suicide, being that they spend significant time with the student on a daily basis. Silverman emphasized how a well-informed and trained teacher who knows who to report to can make all the difference when it comes to preventing suicide.
With September being National Suicide Prevention Month, this assembly of suicide awareness proved to be of extra significance as it was featured on CBS News. Both Ron Silverman and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Laurel Bear appeared in the segment and spoke about the importance of awareness. When all is said and done, the goal of Ron Silverman and his foundation is that schools don’t shy away from talking about this issue, but rather be comfortable interacting with students about suicide in order to save as many lives as possible. To help achieve this mission, AUSD looks forward to working alongside the Matthew Silverman Memorial Foundation for years to come.