Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 11 and 18, and 1 in 50 American adolescents will make a suicide attempt that requires medical attention. While these statistics are troubling, it’s important to remember that suicide is most often a fatal response to a treatable disorder, depression.
The first step in preventing suicide among youth is to help teens and the trusted adults identify and understand the risk factors of depression and suicide. Let’s start this year off right by engaging students, staff, parents, and administrators in the conversation during National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
For Students: Reinforce.
Remind students to ACT if they’re seeing warning signs of depression and suicide and are worried about themselves or a friend.
Acknowledge that you’re seeing signs of depression or suicide in yourself or your friend and that it is serious.
Care - Let your friend know that you care about them, and that you are concerned that they need help that you cannot provide.
Tell a trusted adult either with your friend or on their behalf.
One way to reinforce the ACT message is to display SOS Posters in prominent locations throughout the school, like outside the lunchroom, in the health classroom, or posted outside the library.
For Parents: Educate.
- Host a parent night or incorporate suicide prevention education into parent orientation.
- Inform parents of the need for universal suicide prevention education. Share your school’s Youth Risk Behavioral Survey results or other comparable data to engage them in the conversation.
- Show the Training Trusted Adults DVD and review the warning signs of depression and suicide.
- Distribute important information including parental consent forms, school and community-based mental health resources, and your school’s protocol/contact for following up with students.
- Share the parent version of the screening form (download from https://mentalhealthscreening.org/login/materials using the password: sosresources) to help parents look for warning signs of depression and suicide in their children. It’s a great educational opportunity for parents to explain the importance of screening and identifying at-risk youth who many not otherwise be identified.
Contact our office for more tips on hosting a parent night.
For Staff: Refresh.
Review your school’s policies and procedures with your staff. Ensure that all school personnel are comfortable with the action steps to take if they’re concerned about a student. Identify the key contact(s) that staff can approach with their concerns.
For Administrators: Plan.
Start planning for your SOS Program implementation! Provide support to school staff and initiate conversations on ways in which your school can reduce stigma and increase help-seeking behavior by making offices and classrooms a safe space where all students feel welcomed.
Encourage your administrators and implementation team to review the online gatekeeper training module, and to share this free resource with school staff.
Let’s not stop after September. Continue to engage your students and colleagues in conversations about mental health throughout the year. Shedding light on this important topic creates an environment in which students feel comfortable coming forward to discuss their concerns. Thank you again for your suicide prevention efforts, let’s have a great year!