National Suicide Prevention Week September 10-16
We’ve all seen the tragic headlines – most recently, a 12-year-old girl from New Jersey took her own life because of bullying. The suicide rate for all age groups has increased 24% over the last 14 years, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide rates have tripled for girls aged 10-14, the highest growth of any group. This week is National Suicide Prevention Week and we’re raising awareness and providing resources to communities to help reverse this epidemic.
California became the first state in the nation with a Suicide Prevention education law that requires local educational agencies serving pupils in grades 7-12 to adopt a suicide prevention policy. The policy should address any training to be provided to teachers on suicide awareness and prevention. Keenan provides school professionals with information that can help them reduce the likelihood of suicide among students in their school. Training covers the scope of the problem of youth suicide, common risk factors related to youth suicide, successful strategies for youth suicide prevention, the immediate steps a staff member should take if they encounter a student who is threatening suicide, and best practices for intervention after a suicide (“postvention”).
Educators are often the first to notice changes in a student’s behavior or overall demeanor that indicate a tendency toward suicide. Most youth suicides can be prevented. School staff members who are trained and aware can often make the difference between life and death. Here are some warning signs parents and families, friends, teachers and staff should pay close attention to:
- Symptoms of depression.
- Sudden changes in behavior, friends, or personality.
- Changes in physical habits or personality.
- Loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities.
- Increased use and abuse of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Suicide threats or confiding thoughts of suicide to a friend or trusted adult.
- Writing suicidal thoughts on social media, in a diary or journal, or class work.
- Giving away prized possessions and/or making a will.
- Preoccupation with death and suicide themes.
Creating a positive environment – where youth are encouraged to share their feelings and conflicts with supportive adults – allows them to develop life skills to cope effectively with personal difficulties.
Beyond suicide awareness and prevention, several additional issues relate closely to youth suicide, including bullying and how organizations respond to reported incidents, LGBT students, online safety and cyberbullying, and student mental health.