Teen suicide is a pressing issue that affects families, communities, and schools across the globe. Addressing this problem requires a collaborative effort involving peers, parents, educators, mental health professionals, and policymakers. September is Suicide Prevention Month and, in an attempt to remove some of the fear and stigma that surrounds the topic of suicide, we would like to provide families, students, and staff with information about suicide and ways they can navigate the topic with young people.
Familiarize yourself with some of the myths surrounding suicide to ensure that you do not perpetuate these myths in your conversations with children. Learn about some of the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide. The following websites provide information about suicide myths, facts, and warning signs:
- The Trevor Project
- Know the Signs
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- NAMI Sacramento: Crisis Help for Mental Illness
Build awareness around some of the alarming statistics related to youth suicide. The Jason Foundation explains that suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10–24. It is also one of the leading causes of preventable death. We lose approximately 137 young people in this age group to suicide each week. Four out of Five individuals considering suicide give some sign of their intentions. That means in 80% of those considering suicide, we have an opportunity to recognize the warning signs and intervene.
In some cases, warning signs are not easy to recognize, causing families to feel blindsided when a suicide happens. No matter how well-adjusted a child appears to be, it is important for adults to pay attention and “listen” even when children are not outwardly talking about their suicidal thoughts or ideations. Checking a child’s search history for terms related to suicide, paying attention to texts with friends in which they describe feeling hopeless or express thoughts of suicide, or building awareness of situations that might cause them to think about suicide are possible steps for early intervention.
Cyberbullying and Its Impact
One of the situations that might cause a child to think about suicide is cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is a serious concern that affects the mental health of adolescents. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month provides an opportunity to address the issue of cyberbullying and its potentially devastating consequences with your children. Educating young individuals about the impact of cyberbullying and encouraging responsible online behavior can contribute to creating a safer digital environment for all.
Sometimes adults are unaware when children are being cyberbullied, so it is important to have open conversations about the topic. Our previous post, Keeping Students Safe and Healthy in the Digital Age explores cyberbullying, suicide, and how adults can help in cyberbulling situations where children might feel overwhelmed or hopeless.
Advocating for Digital Well-being
As part of suicide prevention efforts, it’s important to advocate for healthy online habits and digital well-being. Encouraging individuals to take breaks from social media, limit screen time, and engage in offline activities can support their mental health. Promoting a balance between online and offline activities is essential for overall well-being.
Utilizing Technology for Crisis Intervention and Support
Technology offers various crisis helplines and chat services that individuals in distress can access discreetly. Highlighting these resources during Suicide Prevention Month can encourage people to reach out for help when needed. Additionally, mobile apps that provide coping mechanisms, mindfulness exercises, or mental health assessments can also be valuable tools in promoting mental wellness.
For emergencies and/or urgent situations requiring immediate help/assessment, you are encouraged to:
- Call 911 or contact EGUSD’s Safety and Security office at (916) 686-7786.
- Call, text or visit 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. 988 has been designated as the new three-digit dialing code that will route callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call or text 988 to connect with a trained crisis counselor. Support is also available via live chat.
Online forums and communities can offer a range of support, especially in the context of mental health and well-being by breaking down geographical barriers, allowing individuals from diverse locations to connect and share experiences. Anonymity can also reduce the fear of stigma or judgment associated with seeking help for mental health issues.
EGUSD Incident Reporting System
The Elk Grove Unified School District has an Incident Reporting System that can be accessed online through your child’s school website by clicking on the INCIDENT REPORTING button located on the left side of the school’s homepage. Incident reports are received and reviewed by the school’s administration team.
The types of issues that can be reported through the online Incident Reporting System are:
- Harm to Self or Others – Harm includes intent or desire to injure yourself or others.
- Bullying/Cyberbullying – Bullying includes verbal, non-verbal, physical or emotional acts against another student either in person, via electronic device or online.
- Discrimination or Harassment – Discrimination or harassment includes acts against another person on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, age, or personal beliefs either in person, via electronic device or online.
- Damage or Harm to School or Property – Damage or harm to school property includes intentional destruction to the school or school property in a harmful or malicious manner.
The digital world offers an abundance of opportunities for connection, learning, and creativity. However, it also presents challenges, including cyberbullying, peer pressure and exposure to harmful content. Creating a safe and non-judgmental environment and establishing trust and open lines of communication allows children to share their struggles, making it easier for families and educators to provide appropriate support.