What You Can Do To Help Prevent Youth Suicide

NOTE: This month’s blog is a focus on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and discusses suicide, specifically in youth.

The past 18 plus months have been a never-ending series of changes and adjustments and everyone is exhausted, including our students.

As adults, we have the luxury of having more years of life experience to help us through the tough times. Theoretically, we know our own mental health shortcomings and strengths, though going through a global pandemic likely taught us all a few new things.

Our students do not have the life experience luxury that we do. And, for some of those kids, especially, mental health has been a challenge during the pandemic. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This blog is dedicated to providing facts, warning signs, and steps to prevent suicide. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart as I have seen a young person nearly lose their battle with their mental health.

If there is a student in your home, or if you work with students, here are some tips and advice that you can use to help if see someone who may be struggling.

  • Know the facts1:
    • Nearly 50% of LGBTQIA+ high school students have thoughts of suicide.
    • LGBTQIA+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-LGBTQIA+ youth.
    • American Indian, Alaskan Native, and non-Hispanic white communities have some of the highest rates of suicide in the U.S.
    • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10-34.
  • Learn the warning signs2:
    • Suicidal threats in the form of direct (“I am going to kill myself”) and/or 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.
  • Take these steps2:
    • Remain calm.
    • Ask the youth directly if they are thinking about suicide.
    • Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
    • Listen.
    • Reassure them there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
    • Do not judge.
    • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
    • Remove means for self-harm.
    • Get help. No one should ever agree to keep a youth’s suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an appropriate caregiving adult. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.

There is so much information out there; however, two great places to start are:

  1. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Health). Click here for a direct link to more information on Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
  2. NASP (National Association of School Psychologists). Click here for more information on preventing youth suicide.

We also encourage you to check out the “It Matters” campaign, which is directed specifically towards youth suicide prevention.

And, for everyone who is reading this, please remember that you are not alone, you are enough, and you are loved.

Written by Victoria Partridge

Director of Communications with Communities In Schools of Mid-America