Every year there are reports of high school students taking their own lives. Suicide casts a terrible pall over any school community. It just seems so pointless, so senseless. Yet, had members of the community acted on the signals the young person was most likely sending, that suicide could have been prevented.
The academic work in boarding school is heavy. The pressures to succeed, get into the best college, and not let parents and others down, combined with the reality of adolescent uncertainties, can create a climate for depression. Depression can lead to suicide. However, suicide is preventable.
Suicide is preventable.
Suicide is the 3rd largest killer of young adults between the ages of 15-24. But teen suicide is preventable. Know the warning signs.
The following information from Kids Health tells you what to look for.
"Suicide among teens often happens after a stressful life event, such as problems at school, a breakup with a boyfriend or girlfriend, the death of a loved one, a divorce, or a major family conflict.
Teens who are thinking about suicide might:
- talk about suicide or death in general
- give hints that they might not be around anymore
- talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
- pull away from friends or family
- write songs, poems, or letters about death, separation, and loss
- start giving away treasured possessions to siblings or friends
- lose the desire to take part in favorite things or activities
- have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly
- experience changes in eating or sleeping habits
- engage in risk-taking behaviors
- lose interest in school or sports
As a parent, spend quality time with your child. Listen to him. Don't talk at him. Share your experiences and feelings. Be available. Keep firearms and other weapons locked up.
Healthy Children offers 10 Things Parents Can Do to Prevent suicide. I quote their 10 points below. The article is worth bookmarking.
1. Don't let your teen's depression or anxiety snowball.
2. Listen—even when your teen is not talking.
3. Never shrug off threats of suicide as typical teenage melodrama.
4. Seek professional help right away.
5. Share your feelings.
6. Encourage your teen not to isolate himself or herself from family and friends.
7. Recommend exercise.
8. Urge your teen not to demand too much of himself or herself.
9. Remind your teen who is undergoing treatment not to expect immediate results.
10. If you keep guns at home, store them safely or move all firearms elsewhere until the crisis has passed.
As a student, you must know what is happening with your peers. So take it seriously if you notice somebody acting strangely or talking about 'ending it. Get help.
The following advice comes from the National Association of School Psychologists website.
"What Can You Do to Help a Friend? Know the warning signs! Read over the list above and keep it in a safe place. Do not be afraid to talk to your friends. Listen to their feelings. Make sure they know how important they are to you, but don't believe you can keep them from hurting themselves on your own.
Preventing suicide will require help from adults. Make no deals. Never keep secret a friend's suicidal plans or thoughts. You cannot promise that you will not tell. You have to tell to save your friend! Tell an adult. Talk to your parent, your friend's parent, your school's psychologist or counselor-- any trusted adult. Don't wait! Don't be afraid that the adults will not believe you or take you seriously-keep talking until they listen! Even if you are not sure your friend is suicidal, talk to someone. This is definitely the time to be safe, not sorry!
Ask if your school has a crisis team. Many schools have organized crisis teams, which include teachers, counselors, social workers, school psychologists, and principals. These teams help train all staff to recognize warning signs of suicide as well as how to help in a crisis situation. These teams can also help students understand warning signs of violence and suicide. Whether or not you think someone at your school might be suicidal, find out if your school has a crisis team in place. If your school does not have a crisis team, ask your Student Council or faculty advisor to look into starting a team."
This video from PBS offers advice on how schools can prevent suicide.
As an administrator, you need to promote awareness of suicide. You need to proactively hold training for suicide prevention. Create 24/7 access to an anonymous suicide hotline. Offer help and counseling. Above all, do not stigmatize students or staff for reporting information. The National Association of School Psychologists offers a detailed list of steps you can take.
As a teacher, you need to be accessible. Be attuned to the warning signs. Act on them. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers practical advice for teachers in a paper entitled The Role of High School Teachers in Preventing Suicide.
Suicide is preventable. But the school community needs to help prevent it.
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