SOS program helps teens deal with depression, suicide

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Kenya Shiloh
  • 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Get good grades, score high on the SAT, play sports, join a club, apply to college, practice, study ... repeat. These are just some of the stressors teens and tweens face on a daily basis.

For some, the amount of stress could be so strong that they tend to withdraw from their friends and family or become sad or angry, often for long periods at a time. Some students may not know who to turn to and some believe that if they tell their friends, it's showing weakness. So what can they do? One Eifel schools psychologist says the "Signs of Suicide" program is there to help.

This is the fifth year we've instituted this program.

Statistics show suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for students ages 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for students ages 15-24. In its fifth year, the Signs of Suicide ( SOS) program promotes suicide awareness and prevention in middle schools and high schools throughout the Department of Defense Education Activity, according to Andee Rohwedder, Bitburg-Spangdhlem schools psychologist.

"It is a mandatory curriculum that we do every year across DoDDS for students in grades 7, 10, and 12 to bring awareness to the signs of depression and suicide and provide information on what they should do when a friend is talking about these things," Rohwedder said. "Most of the time, children who are talking about this stuff are talking to their friends and their friends may not know what to do in this situation."

According to Rohwedder, there are three factors that cause depression. They include genetics, life stress and lack of coping skills. She noted that DoDDS students are unique in that they deal with stressors like trying to figure out who they are and what they want to be, in addition to dealing with PCS moves and deployments and not getting along with their parents.

"I see our kids deal with a lot of stress here but lack the ability to get the help they need to deal with some of these pressures," she said. "One way to help them cope is with the SOS program."

This year, Rohwedder chose to introduce the program in a smaller setting by dividing the students (boys and girls) according to their grade levels.

"They broke us up into little groups which made things more comfortable," said Morgan McGrath, a Bitburg Midle High School senior and son of Jodi and Maj. Michael McGrath, 52nd Force Support Squadron. "They provided suicide facts on flash-cards, scenarios and pamphlets; and I found it surprising how little we knew about what age groups were more susceptible to suicide. It touched on things we already knew, but this time, it was more engaging."

Rohwedder said she was surprised at how willing they were to open up about this topic.

"Just seeing the kids interested in talking about suicide awareness and interacting in the groups, especially with the high school boys," she said. "I expected the boys to be my toughest group, but they were actually more interactive that the girls were."

She said she was happy to see how receptive the students were and how they realized that this is not a secret to keep -- they can tell someone. Even after the sessions, students came up to her to talk more about the program and to receive more information to take home to their parents.

Jeneba Hoene, a senior at the Bitburg Middle High School and daughter of Jerry and Bernadette Hoene, Spangdahlem Elementary School teachers said, "Having this program available to you kinda breaks things down. The breakout sessions were kind of like a free-for-all. I was able to ask questions I wouldn't have otherwise known."

For more information on the SOS program, email Rohwedder at

Editor's note: This the first in a series of articles tailored to keep parents informed of the programs and information available to students in the Eifel School community.