Will Trautwein was a caring friend, a reliable teammate, and always found the good in people. When he died by suicide in 2010, Will’s parents, John and Susie Trautwein, dedicated themselves to keeping those beautiful elements of Will’s life alive by creating the Will to Live Foundation: a nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing teen suicide and improving the lives of teens through education on mental health issues.
Since its creation, the Will to Live Foundation has partnered with SOS Signs of Suicide to deliver accessible, evidence-based suicide prevention education in middle and high schools across America. First working in their home state of Georgia, several counties were given access to SOS through Will to Live's sponsorship, including:
- Athens/Clarke County
- Carroll County
- Cobb County
- Grady County
- Forsyth County
- Fulton County
- Henry County
- Lumpkin County
- Richmond County
What is SOS Signs of Suicide?
SOS is an in-school suicide prevention program that has demonstrated repeated positive results in increasing awareness around suicide risk and depression in students. The program has shown a 64% reduction in self-reported suicide attempts, and 90% of schools who used SOS saw an increase in student help-seeking after students received the program.
Acknowledged by both the American Association of Suicidology and NASCA, SOS aims to reach more students every year by creating new, innovative approaches to delivering the program.
Updated video clips and improved teacher resources have been added within the past year to make an already effective program even easier to deliver to students. Program topics have also been updated to speak directly to issues and concerns students may be facing, such as content addressing role of social media in the lives of teens.
The Impact of COVID-19
Students are experiencing more social isolation and loss of routine than ever, placing even more importance on delivering suicide prevention programming in schools. Recognizing this need, Will to Live tapped into their longstanding partnership with SOS and funded grants for the delivery of SOS in 20 states, reaching over 19,000 students.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, SOS enhanced their middle and high school programs with guidance from national suicide prevention experts and members of the National Association of School Psychologists. Program materials were updated to not only address the pandemic, but to also be easily deliverable in any type of learning environment: in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
“Socio-emotional learning and mental wellness are parts of education,” says Dr. James Mazza of the University of Washington – Seattle and an expert in adolescent mental health. “We know from enough data that kids who have better social skills and coping strategies tend to have higher levels of mental wellness and to stay in school more – and during these times of virtual learning that’s really important.”