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SPEAK: the Teen Suicide Prevention Program in Huntsville

SPEAK: the Teen Suicide Prevention Program in Huntsville

  • SPEAK = Suicide Prevention, Empowerment, Awareness & Knowledge
  • Huntsville's "Out of the Darkness" event is October 17
  • National Suicide Prevention LifeLine: 800-273-8255

Did you know suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for Alabama children 10-14 years old, behind only car wrecks?

Yet despite the alarming rise in the number of young people taking their own lives, suicide remains a taboo subject that many parents and teachers are reluctant to discuss publicly. An important new program called SPEAK is determined to bring the issue of youth suicide out of the shadows with the goal of saving lives.

What is SPEAK Exactly?

SPEAK – which stands for Suicide Prevention, Empowerment, Awareness and Knowledge – is a collaborative effort involving Huntsville Hospital, the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, local school systems, Wellstone Behavioral Health, Crisis Services of North Alabama and several other organizations that work with children. We believe that a willingness to talk about suicide and mental illness is the first step toward preventing future tragedies. The vast majority of youth suicides could be stopped if teens, parents, teachers and school counselors knew what to look for and where to turn for help. That is our goal with SPEAK – to bring these issues out of the closet so all of us can learn together how best to solve them.

Between now and the end of the school year, SPEAK experts will talk with hundreds of Huntsville, Madison County and Madison City middle and high school students to help teachers recognize the early warning signs of a suicidal child.

A child’s death is the worst thing a family can experience. Please take a look at the information below and share it with your family and friends. If we can help just one family not have to go through that, it will be worth it.

Suicide: What Parents Should Watch For

Many of the signs and symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says these signs might include:

• Change in eating and sleeping habits
• Withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities
• Violent actions, rebellious behavior or running away
• Drug and alcohol use
• Unusual neglect of personal appearance
• Marked personality change
• Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of school work
• Frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomach aches, headaches and fatigue
• Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
• Not tolerating praise or rewards

Local Events & Resources

  • If you or someone you know is experiencing some of these sign or symptoms, call Lifelines at (800) 273-8255 or HELPline at (256) 716-1000.
  • Huntsville’s Out of the Darkness event is October 17 at Ditto Landing – More Details
  • Talking About Suicide with Kids and Teens – More Details
  • Madison City Schools Mental Health Matters program – View Website
  • Visit the SPEAK Website & get involved! View Website


Aparna Vuppala, M.D. is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in private practice in Huntsville at Behavioral Sciences of Alabama. She is a member of the Alabama Regional Council of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She, along with the entire SPEAK task force, is dedicated to preventing teen suicide.

Amelia Ragland is retired from Huntsville City Schools where she served for 26 years in varying roles as a teacher and administrator. In 2015 she lost her son Matthew to suicide. She is passionate about the SPEAK initiative and its goals to provide young people with education and tools to stop suicide.

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SPEAK is a program in Huntsville that helps teens and parents be more aware of the warning signs of suicide and depression.


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