LANSING, Mich., Sept. 7, 2021 – Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) and Michigan Virtual have partnered to address the alarming rates of adolescent suicide and provide guidance, resources and supports that can be quickly deployed to schools and communities. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for youth and young adults in Michigan. Reports of self-harm and suicide among youth increased significantly in 2020, according to Blue Cross data, with suicide attempts increasing 45% among 10- to 14-year-olds and 20% among 15- to 18-year-olds. As the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the growing behavioral health crisis particularly among adolescents in Michigan and across the nation, the partners have announced the launch of a new suicide prevention initiative that offers a series of five online courses on adolescent suicide prevention for educators, student leaders, health professionals, parent teacher organizations and community members. “Blue Cross is pleased to partner with Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association and Michigan Virtual to bring these resources to schools and communities across Michigan to reduce the risk for adolescent suicide,” said Ken Hayward, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan vice president and special assistant to the president for Community Relations. “This opportunity provides schools and communities with critical information and interactive experiences to help educators review their policies and practices, problem solve, facilitate a peer-to-peer support program and develop a comprehensive suicide prevention plan. Mental health and well-being are an important part of healthier school environments.” Developed in collaboration with subject matter experts from the Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry, the Adolescent Suicide Prevention Series features five asynchronous courses. These free courses provide school administration and staff with the tools to identify the signs of students who are at risk of suicidal ideation, suicidal gestures, or completed suicide, and offer action steps to prevent and address these serious concerns. An additional course supports community members by helping them raise awareness on this emerging issue, reduce the stigma of mental health and counseling, and provide strategies to help others feel an important sense of connection and caring. Students will also be empowered through this initiative with leadership skills to become student ambassadors within their schools and communities. Student ambassadors can play a critical role in combating this issue by supporting their peers who may be distressed and helping them connect with resources and support when needed. “The Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association is pleased to be a partner in an effort to provide resources and guidance for schools for suicide prevention and intervention,” said Paul Liabenow, executive director of MEMSPA. “We have seen a dramatic increase in attempted and completed youth suicides across the state and in local communities. Our hope is that we raise awareness, increase school staff training and community support to help save student lives. We must make suicide prevention a top priority, it is our moral imperative.” According to the results of a 2020 survey from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention of how high school and college students were coping with the pandemic, 56% of students said they were “moderately,” “very,” or “extremely” worried about their mental health. Additionally, half of all students reported experiencing anxiety, one-third reported experiencing depression and almost a quarter said they knew of someone with suicidal thoughts since the beginning of the pandemic. The study also found that 76% of students who sought counseling from their school found it helpful. “With suicide being the second-highest leading cause of death among adolescents, it’s vital we address this issue head on,” said Jamey Fitzpatrick, president and CEO of Michigan Virtual. “With the added stress brought about by the pandemic, these courses provide teachers and staff the tools to work with students on a difficult issue. We hope schools across Michigan can put these valuable resources to great use.” Each online course is provided at no cost. Teachers and administrators can earn State Continuing Education Clock Hours (SCECH) hours for professional development credit, a certificate and micro-credential. A School Administrator’s Guide is provided to help administrators facilitate learning and discussion with their school and district staff. School leadership, teaching and support staff, administrative staff, and other members of school communities working with adolescents in Grades 5 and up are encouraged to enroll in one or all five of these courses. Visit www.michiganvirtual.org/adolescent-suicide-prevention to learn more about the courses. ### About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit mutual insurance company, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation are independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. BCBSM provides and administers health benefits to more than 4.6 million members residing in Michigan in addition to employees of Michigan-headquartered companies who reside outside the state. For more company information, visit bcbsm.com and MIBluesPerspectives.com. About Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association (MEMSPA) MEMSPA is the vital knowledge network and voice for principals in Michigan, shaping effective solutions for everyday problems and emerging challenges. We are an engaged community of remarkable instructional leaders, furthering the practice of skillful leadership and connection with our peers. About Michigan Virtual Michigan Virtual™ (formally known as Michigan Virtual University®) provides online courses for Michigan students, professional development for educators and is the parent organization of the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute®. As a nonprofit organization with more than 20 years of experience, Michigan Virtual is Michigan’s leading voice in online education. Visit us at michiganvirtual.org.
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