As we tumble into fall, we are raising awareness on an issue that all should be mindful of–suicide prevention.
Suicide is a public health crisis. And for those who work with youth and young adults, it’s even more urgent. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in age groups 10-14,15-24 and 25-34, according to the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, which makes it a critical issue for parents and other adults to understand. Suicide has no boundaries and affects all genders, ages, races and ethnic groups. One in five young people face mental health challenges and approximately 80% of teens who contemplate suicide want others to know about it and to stop them.
So, how can you help? We must take a multi-tiered approach: Identify, Respond and Follow Up*
Identify the warning signs: Look for feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, guilt, self-hatred, self-harm, sudden isolation, hurting others, anxiety or depression. Has the child or teen mentioned dying or disappearing? Has he lost interest in friends or activities? Have his sleep patterns changed? However, it’s important to note that not everyone who is contemplating suicide displays the same warning signs.
Respond to the person: If you’ve identified someone displaying the warning signs, assist them in seeking help. Put them in touch with a good local hotline such as PRS (Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services 1-800-273-TALK). These organizations provide a full range of crisis services which can reduce suicides and provide treatment that focuses on underlying mental and/or substance use disorders as well.
Build in a follow-up: This is key! Having a safe support system that can continually direct them to a responsible outlet for their mental health challenges will help them tremendously on their road to developing more effective coping strategies and no longer seeing suicide as an option.
Call to Action: I urge you to not just keep these tips in mind during the month of September, which is Suicide Prevention Month, but please…be mindful of your children, neighbors, co-workers, family and friends. If any of them are showing signs that may be red flags at any time of the year, please call your local hotline today. You will make the difference in their life!
*Data taken from Suicide Prevention Resource Center
This week we welcome Gretchen E. Downey, Prevention Expert and Best-Selling Author, as she shares her expertise on preventing suicide in – and strengthening our communication with – the teenagers in our lives. This is the first post in a two-part series:
Our hearts ache when the tragedy of teen suicide occurs in our community. Is it preventable?
The American Psychological Association states that, although it’s difficult to predict, there are warning signals to watch for – and one should always seek professional or medical help when a child is suspected of being in danger:
Talking about dying – any mention of dying, disappearing, jumping, shooting oneself, or other types of self harm
Recent loss – through death, divorce, separation, broken relationship, self-confidence, self-esteem, loss of interest in friends, hobbies, activities previously enjoyed
Change in personality – sad, withdrawn, irritable, anxious, tired, indecisive, apathetic
Change in behavior – can’t concentrate on school, work, routine tasks
Change in sleep patterns – insomnia, often with early waking or oversleeping, nightmares
Change in eating habits – loss of appetite and weight, or overeating
Fear of losing control – acting erratically, harming self or others
Low self esteem – feeling worthless, shame, overwhelming guilt, self-hatred, “everyone would be better off without me”
No hope for the future – believing things will never get better; that nothing will ever change
So the million dollar question… “What’s going on – why the low emotions and why are they so prevalent causing 1 in 5 US teens to seriously consider suicide and 8% of teens to attempt suicide annually? That’s nearly one tenth of our young people feeling helpless, hopeless and like life has no meaning.
For over 50 years the internationally acclaimed Search Institute has conducted research on what kids and teens need to thrive and succeed in life. They report that well over 50 million of our young people are feeling helpless, hopeless and not connected to their inner “spark,” or what gives their life meaning, connection and fulfillment. According to the Search Institute the more developmental assets a person builds, the more likely they are to succeed in school and become happy, healthy and contributing members of their community and society.
Next week, we’ll explore the teenage brain and tangible steps adults can take to help the teenagers in our lives.
Now more than ever, we need to make sure that the teens in our lives feel supported and heard. Fear of the unknown and no hope for the future, as Gretchen points out, can lead teens to suicide. We must help them find their “spark” even during a time when we struggle ourselves. Intervening is important, but modeling self care and emotional regulation are also important. – Tracy Leonard, SCAN Public Education Coordinator]
The average child spends LESS THAN 10 MINUTES each day outside for unstructured playtime. At the same time, we watch as the children we serve face increased stress levels, mental health issues, rising levels of obesity and huge amounts of time spent on computers and other devices.
Nature Deprivation happens when children (and adults, too!) aren’t spending enough time outside and face negative physical, mental and behavioral health consequences because of it.
> Follow the Children & Nature Network on Facebook to learn more about the research and science behind Nature Deprivation, as well as helpful ideas, activities and opportunities happening in other communities.
> Remind parents that they will benefit from fresh air and activities too! Ask parents how they can “unplug” with their kids, while spending quality time together and being physically active. It’s a win-win-win! Download our Unplug with Your Child fact sheet in English or Spanish for guidance and ideas.
Have you seen children and families benefit from more time outdoors, more fresh air and more activities in the great outdoors? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments section below.