September is suicide prevention month. This is a reminder of a serious issue that impacts all of us. In an effort to prepare staff members to have the tools to help students, the Jason Flatt Act mandates that all school employees receive an hour of suicide prevention training every year.
The Jason Foundation reports the following statistics:
• (2019) Suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 5-14.
• Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24.
• In 2020, the state of Kansas ranked 13th in the nation for suicide incidence. The Kansas rate of suicide is 35 percent higher than the national rate.
• Rural areas see higher suicide rates than urban areas.
What can we do? First, let’s openly recognize that this is a serious issue. It is a difficult subject that is challenging to talk about, but it is important to identify that it is a definitive societal problem. A myth is that by discussing suicide, we will encourage suicide attempts. The opposite is true.
Be aware of risk factors that increase the likelihood of an event. Some that have been identified include individuals that have experienced a recent loss, mental disorders, prior suicide attempts, substance abuse (including alcohol), engaging in high risk behaviors, lack of social support, and victimization from bullying.
All concerns regarding suicide must be taken seriously. We should be alert for warning signs. The Jason Foundation indicates that four out of five teens who attempt suicide give clear warning signs that may include:
• Talking about suicide;
• Making statements about feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless;
• A deepening depression;
• Preoccupation with death;
• Taking unnecessary risks or exhibiting self-destructive behavior;
• Out of character behavior;
• A loss of interest in the things one cares about;
• Visiting or calling people one cares about;
• Making arrangements; setting one’s affairs in order;
• Giving prized possessions away.
When we talk about keeping our kids safe from harm, our efforts need to include keeping them safe from self-harm. Effort and conversation needs to occur about best practices to deter the second leading cause of death for our adolescent children.
Our best weapon in keeping our kids safe is through positive relationships. School personnel, law enforcement officials, health care workers, and clergy all have training and work to keep our kids physically and mentally safe. By recognizing suicide as a legitimate risk and heightening our awareness about risk factors as well as warning signs, we can better take care of each other. The advice for potential suicide is the same for school violence; if you see something, say something. For more information go to jasonfoundation.com.