Youth suicide is on the rise. There are many of us fighting to stop this tragic loss of our youth – from lawmakers to parents to schools. However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Further, as a society, we need to join forces to empower those at risk to build confidence and self-worth.
In 2004, lawmakers passed an important youth suicide prevention act. The Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (GLSMA), named for the son of Oregon Senator Gordon Smith, whose son died by suicide in 2003. The Act’s focus is to curb youth suicide through distribution of grants for prevention efforts. In addition, the law supports three important programs according to the Federal Action Network:
The Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Ensures GLSMA grantees receive appropriate information, training, and technical assistance on:
- Developing and implementing cost-effective early intervention programs;
- Identifying and understanding the causes and associated risk factors for suicide;
- Surveying suicidal behavior and nonfatal suicide attempts; and
- Evaluating and disseminating outcomes and best practices of mental health and substance use disorder services.
Youth Suicide Intervention and Prevention Strategy Grants to States and Tribes
Provides states and tribes/tribal organizations funding to develop and implement:
- Early intervention, assessment, and treatment services;
- Information and awareness campaigns;
- Tools to evaluate intervention and prevention practices and strategies;
- Training programs for providers and childcare professionals.
Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Services and Outreach on Campus
Enables colleges and universities to prevent youth suicide by authorizing:
- Educational and outreach activities on suicide prevention;
- The development and implementation of evidence-based and emerging best practices;
With today’s social media and online bullying, it is challenging to get our children to open up about what they are feeling and what is going on via their social media accounts. Yes, there are aps to help us attempt to stay on top of attacks on our children but we also need to pickup on cues. The American Academy of Pediatrics has some great resources for us on their Healthy Children site:
- Don’t let your teen or preteen’s depression or anxiety snowball. A bad day happens. However, weeks of moodiness is cause for investigation.
- Listen even if your teen is not talking. Further more, if three or more of these things are happening, dig deeper:
- Major loss (i.e., break up or death)
- Substance abuse
- Peer or social pressure
- Access to weapons
- Public humiliation
- Severe chronic pain
- Chronic medical condition
- Family history of suicide or recent school suicide
- Never shrug off threats of suicide as typical teenage melodrama. These are signs:
- “Nothing matters.”
- “I wonder how many people would come to my funeral?”
- “Sometimes I wish I could just go to sleep and never wake up.”
- “Everyone would be better off without me.”
- “You won’t have to worry about me much longer.”
- Seek professional help right away.
- Share your feelings, let your child know he or she is not alone.
- Encourage your teen not to isolate themselves from family and friends.
- Recommend exercise. Physical activity can put the brakes on mild to moderate depression.
- Urge your child not to demand too much of themselves. Divide ‘overwhelming’ tasks into smaller goals.
- Remind your teen who is undergoing treatment not to expect immediate results.
- If you keep guns at home, store them safely or move all firearms elsewhere until the crisis has passes.
Although suicide is the leading cause of death among teens, KQED Education believes “schools are uniquely positioned to help.” In fact, there are many tools available including:
- Posting the Suicide Prevention hotline number throughout the school: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Use the Sources of Strength program to support students’ mental health
- Create environments that help students interact such as makerspaces, group projects, team building.
- Self-confidence is a key to giving student’s strength to pull through tough times. Standing desks have been shown to improve student confidence by improving eye to eye contact with teachers.
- Obesity is a major concern for our children. It also directly impacts self-confidence. Schools are now more in tune to creating active classrooms to help get more movement back into our children’s lives. Wobble stools, standing desks, yoga balls are just a few items being added to help children lose weight and improve self-image.
The world is changing. As leaders, teachers and parents, it is up to us to STAND UP and fight for our children, stop youth suicide, stop bullying while improving their overall health and self-worth. Together we can make a difference. One step at a time.