University Lends Hand in War on Bullying, Anger and Suicide

May 18, 2012

COMMERCE - To ask a suicidal person, “Have you ever thought about hurting yourself?” is perhaps the last thing a concerned parent or friend feels comfortable doing. But it may be the start of a process that saves their life.

Dr. Gail Johnson is an associate dean and associate professor in the College of Education and Human Services at Texas A&M University -Commerce. She says the questions don’t stop there.

“There was a study that showed that 70 percent of college students at one time or another thought about ending their life. But we know that not that many people do. But if they have intent and they say, ‘yes, I’ve thought about doing it,’ and they have a plan you have to take it very seriously; no matter what the age,” Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson is part of an effort to inform university instructors and those of local school districts how to ensure safe schools, families and communities. Her address on suicide prevention covers warning signs of possible suicidal ideation, ways to talk to the child, the family and other staff about suicide and ways to protect the child. Additionally, issues concerning documentation and confidentiality are covered.

Also presenting is Dr. LaVelle Hendricks, assistant professor of counseling, on understanding and controlling anger. The section will reveal signs and/or symptoms of anger and techniques to effectively handle/control anger before it controls you.

They’re joined by Dr. Betty Block, professor and department head for Health and Human Performance and Dr. Tara Tietjen-Smith, associate professor and graduate coordinator. The two will address bullying; its effect on the health and well-being of students and prevention.

“There was the death of a young person in the State of Texas and the response was overwhelming by our legislators to make sure that our schools are aware of the impact of bullying – because this suicide was the result of bullying – and to know how to deal and prevent suicide in public schools,” Dr. Johnson said.

The university has since volunteered to educate local school districts on the subject, with the campaign beginning this fall. Instructors on the A&M-Commerce campus and at the university’s Metroplex Center had an opportunity to attend the seminar earlier this year.

Dr. Johnson added, “They [school teachers/coaches] care a great deal about those children. But they have to know how to interact... every person, not just the counselor, not just the school psychologist, needs the information to intervene when they see there’s a problem.”  

Here the complete interview with Dr. Gail Johnson above.