Concept of caring village at heart of suicide prevention program


October 14, 2002|By Karen Nitkin | Karen Nitkin,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

SUICIDE IS a problem for every school and every community," says Jennifer McKechnie, a guidance counselor at Centennial High School. It's a leading cause of death for young people, with rates continually on the rise.

McKechnie and others are working to prevent teen suicide. Officials have organized a daylong Suicide Prevention Program, to be held Oct. 29, that will help students, teachers, parents and others identify warning signs of suicide and work to prevent the tragedy.

During the day, students, teachers and others in the school will attend one of several hourlong assemblies about suicide prevention and coping skills.

The assemblies are aimed at students, faculty, coaches, custodians and administrators - "anyone with a relationship to the kids," McKechnie said. "It's really going back to the concept of taking a whole village and having everybody alert to the possible warning signs."

Parents are invited to join the village that night by attending a discussion with author and lecturer Sandy Queen of Columbia, who will speak about suicide risk factors, warning signs and prevention skills. The discussion, which will start at 7 p.m. in the school cafeteria, is open to the public.

On Nov. 7, suicide prevention experts will come to the school to talk to teachers, administrators and staff about suicide risks and prevention.

Although the Suicide Prevention Program was not inspired by a specific incident, McKechnie noted that students these days are under tremendous stress, especially in competitive Howard County schools.

McKechnie, who has a background in bereavement counseling, worked on the project with school psychologist Susan Garner, cluster nurse Sheila Morrison, and Jennifer Lage, a school psychologist who used to split her time between Centennial and Long Reach high schools and now works full time at Long Reach.

In the summer, McKechnie and the others started a suicide prevention program for the Howard County school system. The goal was to refine existing policies and help school officials take an active approach to preventing teen suicide.

Several members of the team are at Centennial High School. "Because we all work in the same school, we just kept talking and working on things," she said. The result was the pilot program at Centennial.

If the program is a success, it might become a model for other schools in the county, McKechnie said.

Information about the program: the school guidance department, 410-313-2857.


Ravens quarterback Chris Redman is scheduled to be at the Norbel School in Elkridge tomorrow for the grand opening of the school's multimedia center and playground.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony will celebrate additions to the former Elkridge Elementary School, which has been home to Norbel since August last year. Before that, the private school for students with language-based learning difficulties or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder was in Baltimore.

Redman was honorary chairman of an auction in the spring that raised more than $70,000 for the school. The money funded construction of a playground and basketball court. The three-story Merritt Multi-Media Center features a large-screen movie area, a game room, an audio room and space for research.

The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 1:45 p.m. at the school. Information: 410-796-6700.

Crafts for sale

Works by local artists will be featured in an annual one-day craft sale at Slayton House Gallery in Wilde Lake Village Green. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9, the gallery will sell items such as clothing, home accessories, prints and pottery. A portion of the proceeds will help support arts events at Wilde Lake.

Ellicott City artists whose work will be on display and for sale include Jean Tamburello, Patricia Ciricillo, Jean Mettee, David Knipfer and Linda Hayes.

Other artists in the show hail from the Baltimore and Washington metropolitan areas. Information: Slayton House, 410- 730-3987 or 301-596-4883.

Columbia Pro Cantare

An all-Mozart program will launch the new season of the nonprofit Columbia Pro Cantare on Oct. 26 at James Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts in Columbia. A free lecture and discussion will be held onstage from 6:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the concert will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets range in price from $20 to $25. To order: 410-465- 5744 or 410-799-9321.

Ellicott City and Elkridge residents who are in the choir include Robert Anderson, Craig Ballew, Florence Banikiotes, Kathleen Bowen, Elladean Brigham, Stanley Brown, Barry Eigen, Jennifer Harville, Phyllis Hayes, Mary Ann Heine, Antonina Hoffer, Linda Kuberek, Kim Lichtenberg, Shannon Miller, Al Morse, Sally Morse, Heather Muller, Gloria Nutzhorn, Karen Ostdiek, Heidi Page, Mary Quigg, Kem Ramcke, Mary Jane Recer-Daniels, Charlie Reisz, Frank Rittermann, Melissa Stanford, Trina Torkildsen, Susan White and Mark Wynn.

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