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The Benefits of Teaching Suicide Prevention in Schools
posted by: Guest contributor | May 12, 2016, 06:12 PM   

Guest Post By Steve Johnson


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 12 teenagers attempted suicide in 2012. By the next year, 8% of all high school students had actually acted on their suicidal thoughts. When students learn suicide prevention in school, they’re given the resources they need to address their own suicidal feelings, or those of a friend. As such, proper education could lead to a dramatic decrease in suicidal thoughts and attempts amongst teenagers.


Unfortunately, however, most students are not adequately taught about suicide prevention in school or at home. This means that the majority of teenagers are unable to properly handle suicidal feelings.


Why Suicide Risk is High Among Teens

As many of us know, one’s teenage years can be tumultuous. What many don’t fully understand is what could lead teenagers to consider or attempt suicide. The answer to this, however, can be complex, and often involves both environmental and emotional factors.


●     Depression: Up to 20% of teenagers report incidences of depression. This can include feelings up worthlessness, hopelessness, loneliness, or helplessness. Often, teens feel that the only way to end these feelings is through death.

●     Stress and Anxiety: Much like depression, teens experience stress and anxiety at high rates, and cannot find healthy coping mechanisms.

●     Mental Illness or Family History: Teens who experience mental illness or have a family history of mental illness are more likely to attempt suicide.

●     Physical Illness: Teens with physical illnesses often see themselves as different from their peers, which can be devastating during youth, leading to suicidal thoughts and actions.

●     Brain Development: The human brain is still developing during teenage years. As such, many students do not have the capacity to handle feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, rejection, or hurt.

●     Bullying: With the rise of social media and technology, bullying has become more prevalent than ever. Teens who experience bullying often see no way out of the situation other than suicide.

●     Abuse, Neglect, or Trauma: Teens who experience parental abuse or neglect, or those who have experienced trauma at home (such as the death of a loved one) are more likely to commit suicide.

●     Substance Abuse: Often, substance abuse, other mental illness, and suicide go hand in hand in the teenage community.

●     Access to Means: Teenagers with the means to commit suicide (including access to weapons) are more likely to actually make an attempt.


How Suicide Prevention Programs in Schools Can Help

Proper access to resources is key to preventing and treating any disease, whether physical or mental. As previously stated, teenagers’ brains and bodies are still in development, and as such, they need guidance and counseling to properly cope with negative feelings, emotions, and situations.


Whether students are experiencing a poor home life or an undiagnosed mental illness, a suicide prevention program could help guide them in the right direction. Important aspects of any suicide prevention program should include:


●     Risk factors associated with suicide;

●     Resources for help;

●     Facts and statistics about suicide; and

●     How help yourself or a loved one.


With this knowledge, students and teachers alike can learn how to identify warning signs, whether within themselves or those around them. Once these signs are recognized, students and staff will have the skills and knowledge they need to reach out for help. When suicide prevention resources are enabled, the risk of suicide amongst teens will decrease.


Teens are a vulnerable population of individuals and to maintain proper health, both physically and mentally, they must be given the proper resources. By adding suicide prevention to a school’s curriculum, students are better able to handle and address suicidal thoughts or intentions. Prevention can save lives, especially those of younger populations who are at higher risk.


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