FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Today is the start of a bi-weekly series highlighting different organizations and programs working hard on suicide prevention throughout the community.
For the first segment, we talked to students at Ryan Middle School about their club 'Signs of Suicide' or 'SOS.'
'Signs of Suicide' is a national prevention program that is implemented at multiple schools throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough teaching students 'it's okay to ask for help.' Ann Piek, prevention and intervention specialist for Ryan Middle School says it is important for students to learn these skills at a young age. "They need to know what steps to take, and that's why we do the 'SOS' and the main concept of SOS is 'it's okay to ask for help' and here's how you can do that," said Piek.
One of the members, Athena Carreon says it feels good to help her friends. "I think it's comforting coming from someone your age who relates, and sometimes coming from parents, or just other adults, they kind of make you feel like, 'oh you shouldn't feel like this' or 'it's wrong to feel this' sometimes," said Carreon.
Members of SOS mentioned bullying, hormonal changes, and other reasons why middle school can be a tough time for students.
"It's a good time to be able to know what to do, cause there's many people that are just like 'it's not worth it, I should just end it all now, but if you know the signs and you know the things, you could be like 'hey, I care about you, and plenty of people do, you should try talking to someone, or just say something like that 'I'm here to talk, and just be like super positive and like 'I'm always here for you,' said Cailey Smith, an SOS member.
Another SOS member Chevy Koth says being a part of 'Signs of Suicide' and helping others gives her a sense of purpose. "It makes me feel like I'm doing something, like I'm not just another middle schooler that's just not doing anything to help anybody," said Koth.
The SOS program has one message they want to get across. 'It's okay to ask for help.'
Piek says she has seen a positive difference in students knowing how and when to report possible signs or thoughts of suicide.