National Suicide Prevention Month

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Instead of giving facts and figures on loneliness, depression and increasing deaths by suicide of more young people today, let’s actually talk about suicide. At this point, if you are on this page, you are aware of the increasing mental health concerns in the United States. You don’t need to be bombarded with the staggering statistics to understand we are in crisis.

If you are here, you may be struggling with worries, sadness, fleeting thoughts of wanting to go to sleep and not wake up. If you are here, you may have a child or loved one struggling with these feelings and thoughts. If you are here, you are not alone. When we talk about a topic like suicide, we deisolate the scary word and therefore deisolate those who may be struggling.

There is a myth, that if you talk about suicide, then you are giving someone the idea of suicide. Like I said, this is a myth, but an extremely common one. When I was the Clinical Team Leader of Sheppard Pratt Elementary and Middle School, a therapeutic special education school, I implemented a suicide prevention policy within the entire school.

The first step was to screen our students twice a year. Why was this the first step? Not to put the idea of suicide into our students’ minds, but to provide a judgmental free space to have an open dialogue.

For some of my students, to hear trusted adults ask questions about depression and suicide, it came as a relief. Finally, someone could say the words they may have been too scared to say themselves, and finally, all they had to do was nod.

To get to the point of screening all students twice a year, was a process, with the first step of training other clinicians. It amazed me how many clinicians asked the question, “If our students aren’t already thinking about suicide or telling us they are struggling, why would we screen them?” And yes, this is a fair question. The same question was asked by parents and school staff. Unfortunately, society has taught us to mask our concerns, hide our fears and not ask scary questions.

Research has shown that having an open non-judgmental dialogue about suicide will help reduce the stigma and help those contemplating suicide to have a safe space to share their stories and rethink their opinions.

For this suicide prevention month, instead of letting the fears of myths and jarring statistics bring us down, let’s learn about how to talk about suicide in a way that is appropriate and helpful. For younger kids, it may look like checking in on how they are feeling, noticing changes in behaviors and moods.

The word suicide may never even come up, but children may say statements like, “I wish I could go to sleep and not wake up” and “I wish I wasn’t born.” For teenagers, it may be helpful to ask open-ended questions about their moods, notice sleep patterns change, new friend groups and new interests in risky behaviors.

Allowing the open, judgement free space in your home to talk about ALL feelings, will help your child feel comfortable sharing thoughts and feelings.

Most importantly, you or your loved one is not alone. If you are experiencing or struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or feelings, call or text 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, go to your closest emergency room or call 911.

For help navigating these feelings for you or a loved one, feel free to schedule a free consultation today.

If you would like to schedule a training for your school staff on warning signs, suicide language, behaviors, screening for clinicians and postvention processes, check out our Suicide Prevention Training for all School Professionals to learn more today.

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