Youth Suicide Prevention
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the US among youth between 10 and 19 years of age; in Colorado it is the leading cause of death for this age group. However, suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Family members, caregivers, 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.
What You Should Know
Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk. These include:
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
- Family stress/dysfunction
- Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home
- Situational crises (e.g., death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence)
Many suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct and indirect statements
- Suicide notes and plans
- 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
The presence of resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors to lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth. These include:
- Family support and cohesion, including good communication
- Peer support and close social networks
- School, family and community connectedness
- Cultural or faith beliefs that strengthen parent/guardian and child relations
- Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution
- General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose
- Refusal skills to avoid risky behavior
- Parent/guardian monitoring of social media, computer and cell phone use
What You Can Do
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents/guardians, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
- Remain calm.
- Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about 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: Do not agree to keep the suicidal thoughts a secret, seek out a school or community-based mental health professional.
Source: Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators, National Association of School Psychologists
If you feel that someone is in imminent danger, please call 911 immediately.
Suicide Prevention in CCSD
In the Cherry Creek School District, we approach suicide prevention comprehensively through a broad range of initiatives and programs that serve to build resilience, teach students social-emotional skills, develop the whole child and create a safe and supportive learning environment. Examples include Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), Bullying Prevention, Second Step and mindfulness and wellness strategies.
Please contact your child's school for mental health resources available on-site.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
We can all help prevent suicide. The Suicide & Crisis Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.