Suicide Awareness and Prevention
HVS Counselor Newsletter
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. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in the school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority, and are empowered to take the correct actions, we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.
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.
Extreme withdrawal from friends and family.
In the Schools - What We are Doing
Sometimes students report to counselors suicidal thoughts or other indicators that warn of suicide. Other times it is a student's friend who reports their concerns to a counselor, who then meets with the student to investigate these concerns. We deeply appreciate and depend on these reports. In both cases the counselors evaluate the situation, contact the parents, and make referrals to the appropriate resources. In addition to responding to individual students’ needs around the issue of suicidal thoughts as they arise, counselors at the middle schools and high schools are also addressing this topic in various ways. To spotlight a couple of examples:
In October 9th graders at Milford High School heard Jeff Edwards speak on the topic of Mental Illness, Youth Depression, & Suicide. He will be delivering this message to Lakeland students in April.
On December 11 Oak Valley Middle School is bringing Real Talk to all 8th graders. Real Talk focuses on opening up discussions to improve communication between peers and adults. It helps create a more supportive, caring community.
White Lake Middle School hosted two assemblies with a suicide awareness focus in October. In addition a new bulletin board informing parents, students, and staff about mental illness.
Throughout the 2018-2019 school year Lakeland High School and Milford High School counselors are conducting random wellness checks. Each counselor randomly selects 3-5 students per week with whom they meet in order to create a connection. The hope is that by reaching out to random students, we will shrink the crack through which students might slip.
If you have a concern about your student or another as it relates to this or any mental health issue, please contact your child's counselor. Their contact information can be found below.
Ideas and Resources for Students and Parents
For Students - What Can You Do to Help a Friend?
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. Suicide rarely happens without warning. As a peer, you may be in the best position to recognize when a friend might need help and help them get it. You may see signs in person, hear about them secondhand, or see them online in social media. Never ignore these signs. While suicide is typically associated with the pain of mental illness (in particular depression and associated feelings of helplessness and hopelessness), there are sometimes specific situations that trigger suicidal actions such as breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, failing in school, being bullied, or experiencing abuse, loss or other trauma. It is important to learn these warning signs and what to do if you see any them in yourself or a friend. Suicide is preventable. By listening, talking, and acting you could save a life. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide (e.g., "Are you thinking of suicide?").
Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
Reassure them that 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, such as a parent, teacher, or school counselor.
For Parents - What Can You Do to Help a Youth?
Parents should always take any reference to suicide or warning signs of suicide seriously. Never ignore these signs. If your child exhibits any of the signs parents should follow the above guidelines and then seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. If your child is in immediate risk parents should take them immediately to an emergency room for evaluation.
If your child is aware of a friend expressing or exhibiting warnings signs that indicate immediate risk, parents can contact their local law enforcement agency and ask for a welfare check on that student. It is extremely helpful if you can first obtain an address or location of the student who is at risk. Law enforcement personnel will go to the home to assess the situation.
Suicide Prevention http://www.sprc.org. Comprehensive nformation on education and prevention.
Increased Hours Online Correlate with Uptick in Teen Depression, Suicidal Thoughts. Michigan Radio NPR article. goo.gl/Vr3WzA
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide Parent Section: http://www.sptsusa.org/parents/ This website’s parent section provides information to help you talk with your teens about suicide or the death of a friend by suicide.
Jason Foundation Parent Resource Program http://jasonfoundation.com/get-involved/parent/parent-resource-program/ This website contains basic information about suicide and how you as a parent or guardian can help prevent youth suicide.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1–800–273-TALK (8255) The Lifeline is a 24-hour toll-free phone line for people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. An online chat option is available at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx