September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
Posted on 09/24/2017
September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

- Understanding Teen Suicide -

The start of a new school year can set the tone-good or bad-for the whole year, especially for teens. The new year is a good time to reflect on what parents and students can get started well and understand risk factors that may signal serious problems for students.

A positive school experience is an important factor in school success and teen health overall. Teens who lack effective coping skills for the academic and social pressures at school are at risk for poor health, poor grades, depression or even thoughts of suicide.

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of teen suicides has been increasing in recent years.

"There are more pressures on teenagers than ever before, and many of them are having trouble coping with the demands that are placed on them. Another problem is that suicide is starting to take on a sort of dark glamour as some social networking websites feature suicide pacts among its members." (

Suicide is a significant cause of death among teens and young adults. It is reportedly the leading cause of death for youth between ages 15 and 24, and depression is often the root cause.

According to the CDC, sixty percent of high school students claim they have thought about committing suicide, and about nine percent report that they have attempted it at least once.

Causes of teen suicide

Depression is linked to suicide and is often also linked to issues at school. Other factors that contribute to teen suicide include:

  • Divorce of parents
  • Violence in the home
  • Inability to find success at school
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Rejection by friends or peers
  • Substance abuse
  • Death of someone close to the teenager
  • The suicide of a friend or someone he or she "knows" online

A 2007 study by the American College Health Association found that anxiety and depression are increasing among teens and young adults:

  • 94% of students say the first word that describes their life is "overwhelmed."
  • 44% say they are so overwhelmed it is difficult to function.
  • Almost one in ten students have thought about suicide in the past year. (

 What to watch for

Experts say it is important to watch for warning signs that teens may attempt suicide or be considering suicide, but it isn't clear cut. Many of these behaviors look like normal adolescent behaviors. "The teenage years are a trying time, and sometimes normal behavior looks a lot like possibly destructive behavior."

The following are warning signs to look for:

  • Talks about death and/or suicide (maybe even with a  joking manner)
  • Plans ways to kill him or herself
  • Expresses worries that nobody cares about him or her
  • Has attempted suicide in the past
  • Dramatic changes in personality and behavior
  • Withdraws from interacting with friends and family
  • Begins to act recklessly and engage in risk-taking behaviors
  • Begins to give away sentimental possessions
  • Spends time online interacting with people who glamorize suicide and maybe even form suicide pacts (

Preventing teen suicide

Preventing suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide can be as simple as treating depression. Simple is not the same easy. Get professional help to treat the symptoms of depression in teens through counseling, residential treatment and even medication.

A mental health professional can work with your teen and your family to find a treatment that can help. All options should be based on respect, understanding and unconditional love and support for your teen.

Also encourage them to step away from their phones and social media and increase their face-to-face interactions with friends. "If their phone is a source of angst, the most liberating act they can perform is get time away from it," said youth leadership expert, Tim Elmore. (

Talk to kids about suicide

One of the most effective ways to understand how students feel and whether they are at risk to talk to them. Elmore suggests engaging them conversationally.

"Few parents or teachers get an honest answer by merely asking, "How are you doing?" or, by routinely asking, "How was school today?" Find a place where you and your student can be actively working alongside each other before you spark a conversation. The preoccupation of activity helps most people slip into a transparent discussion. Also, find language to help them articulate what they are feeling. I may ask, "At what point in your day do you experience your lightest times? How about your darkest times?"

(INSIGHTS FOR FAMILIES is provided by your child's school in recognition of your role as a partner in education. Insights is produced by Marcia Latta, communications consultant, NSPRA.)
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