Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age kids. There are often warning signs when kids are thinking about suicide. School staff, parents and friends are key to prevention. Knowing the signs and having a plan in place for your school can greatly reduce the risk of a tragedy that can't be taken back. Sometimes it is not one major event in a child's life that overwhelms them to the point of considering suicide. Sometimes it is not persisent bullying. Sometimes it is lots of little things that pile up. Knowing the signs and having a plan could save a life.
The National Association of School Psychologists offers the following:
The Role of the School in Suicide PreventionChildren and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a caring and trusting student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis response team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide. These individuals conduct suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow up counseling and support at school.
Suicide Risk Factors
Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odd of having suicidal thoughts. These include:
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.
- Family stress/dysfunction.
- Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home.
- Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence).
Suicide Warning Signs
Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct ("I am going to kill myself") and indirect ("I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again") statements.
- Suicide notes and plans (including online postings).
- Prior suicidal behavior.
- Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions).
- Preoccupation with death.
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.
If your school does not have a plan in place, or even if you do, below are some great resources that can help. There are fact sheets, a model school district policy, toolkits and training resources for staff. It's important to create and promote awareness with students as well. It is a tough dialog to have, there is no question, but it could save a life.
A free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Your call will be routed to the nearest crisis center to you. No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living.
The Trevor Project is determined to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing life-saving and life-affirming resources including a nationwide, 24/7 crisis intervention lifeline, digital community and advocacy/educational programs that create a safe, supportive and positive environment for everyone.