“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age youth. However, suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help,” according to the National Association of School Psychologists.
The first line of offense and defense for awareness and prevention of youth suicide begins with parents, guardians, caregivers, and foster guardians. A specific educational program aimed at this group is vital. Adults in the home must learn how to communicate with children concerning suicide.
A giant myth: Talking about suicide to youth will plant suicidal ideas in their brains. False.
Communication can help prevent suicide. Adults in the home need to be responsible for talking to their children (when age appropriate) about suicide awareness and prevention — not just once to get the conversation over with, but on a regular basis. For example, when a celebrity commits suicide, parents can check in with youth to listen, answer questions, and review coping skills. Adults must become comfortable with suicide prevention talk.
Relatives are part of the prevention team. Grandparents, aunts, and uncles need to learn about suicide prevention. Parents need to communicate with relatives and provide resource information.
The Ohio General Assembly enacted Revised Code Section 3319.073, which requires school districts to provide professional in-service training to address youth suicide awareness and prevention. Training is required for every teacher, counselor, school psychologist, school nurse, and administrator, as well as other personnel that the board deems appropriate. Football, basketball, baseball, and all coaches need to be trained as well.
Pediatricians, general practitioners, nurse practitioners, dentists, and other medical professionals can utilize screening questionnaires about suicide with forms for youth and parents. Referrals can be made to local mental health centers.
Pamphlets on suicide prevention need to be in the offices of all helping professionals and all businesses. Hair salons can put prevention pamphlets next to magazines. Most youth make frequent visits for hair appointments.
The county mental health center must be vigilant with ongoing community education with parents, foster guardians, school personnel, helping professionals, and the entire community.
Residents must support the local suicide prevention coalition with their time and dollars. Attend their fundraisers and community programs and projects.
Churches, temples, and synagogues can be on the team as well, especially youth leaders and Sunday school teachers.
Every adult with a Facebook account can put suicide prevention information on her or his page and website.
Educating youth to talk and tell when a friend or classmate discusses or threatens suicide is important; however it is the responsibility of adults to be proactive and not expect children to be the rescuers. Youth demonstrate a strong sense of loyalty and confidentiality with their peers.
We are living in the information age where facts, statistics, pamphlets, posters, handouts, books, videos, movies about real suicide stories, apps, and social media sites discuss and display suicide awareness and prevention knowledge. With the Internet, we have instant access to warning signs and symptoms of suicide. We have 24-hour suicide hotlines.
So why do youth continue to commit suicide? Do we need better prevention programs?
Or do we need to focus more on prevention and intervention of depression and alcohol and drug abuse among teens?
“Alcohol use has consistently been implicated in adolescent suicide and it is generally assumed that alcohol use leads to an increased risk in suicidality, suicide attempts, and completed suicides,” according to a 2007 article in the Journal of Adolescent Medical Heath.
“The majority of children and adolescents who attempt suicide have a significant mental health disorder, usually depression,” according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
Suicide prevention programs need to focus on everything in my article as well as bullying prevention and intervention.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. Visit www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.