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SPEAK: the Teen Suicide Prevention Program in Huntsville

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SPEAK: the Teen Suicide Prevention Program in Huntsville

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. The SPEAK program is also developing a mobile app that can be downloaded and used by anyone in North Alabama to learn about suicide awareness and to find important resources.


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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

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If you or someone you know is experiencing some of these, call Lifelines at (800) 273-8255 or HELPline at (256) 716-1000.


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[themify_box style=”light-blue”]ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
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. [/themify_box]

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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.

View Comments (3)
  • My name is Crystal I have a 10yr old son who suffers from PTSD ,Mood Ass. Disorder, Manic Depressant w /Suicidal Tendencies as well as ADHD at only 8yrs. old he made his first suicide attempt by the grace of god I found him before he couldn’t be revived. His second attempt was on Thanksgiving last yr he slit his wrist. All of this was caused by bullying not just verbally but physically. He has been assaulted on so many occasions 13 of the assaults put him in hsv children’s hospital. He couldn’t escape his bullies not only did they prey on him at home but at school an on the bus, he just couldn’t get away so he.decided to take his life when I asked why he said he wanted to go to heaven so they couldn’t hurt him anymore. He has completely given up on life. We have changed where we live an school’s but it didn’t help the only thing that changed was the bullies. We have went to the school’s an pleaded with them to stop these kid’s from hurting our son. He doesn’t eat, sleep an he is constantly complaining of fatigue. He cries an begs us to not send him to school because he knows what’s going to happen. His first day of school this yr he was both verbally an physically assaulted. It’s sad that my child can’t get a good education an be safe at school. If you have.any advice you can give us or help we would greatly appreciate it. Thanks Crystal & Jacob Allen

    • Hi Crystal & Jacob – I am so sorry your family and son are going through this. Have you reached out to a professional for help? I would absolutely 100% not let another day go by without calling the HELPline at 256-716-1000 – there are local, caring professionals on the line who can advise you what to do and who to talk to next. I’m so glad you reached out and I can tell you are great parents who aren’t afraid to get your little boy the help he needs. Much love and light to you all!

  • My name is Jesse Doyle and my heart goes out to Mr and Mrs Allen. My son Jesse took his life only months after graduating from Sparkman High School last year. I have two other sons who attend Sparkman High and Monrovia Middle. I have done research and have lived it myself. The real answer to this growing problem is to be proactive. It must be included I our kids curriculum at school. I believe that our kids must be given the tools to deal with depression, anxiety, ect. and how to find help. The Jason flatt act started seventeen years ago and its a great step forward for Alabama and it will help in this fight but its not enough. Sparkman and Monrovia have around 28 students per teacher and in a classroom setting. Last year seven former students of Sparkman reached out to me to tell me that they had dealt with these issues and know of countless others who have done the same. I’m very passionate about making changes for the betterment of our children. I’m a single parent and my sons and I participated in a suicide awareness walk that my best friend arranged and made happen in downtown Cullman. My sons and I want to do more. Thank You

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