Knowledge is Prevention: Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk

Knowledge is Prevention: Recognizing and Responding to Suicide Risk

September is National Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month, a time to increase knowledge on this stigmatized and, frequently taboo, topic.1 “Understanding the issues concerning suicide and mental health is an important way to take part in suicide prevention, help others in crisis, and change the conversation around suicide.”2 

Some of the biggest preventers of suicide is human connection and spreading awareness!



IT'S OKAY TO TALK ABOUT IT

Did you know that suicide is the second leading cause of death for 10-34 year olds?3 One’s struggle should not be underestimated because of their age! “Typically, there are two factors that come together to propel a kid down this path: 1) a risk factor such as mental illness, depression or substance abuse that acts as the fuel, and 2) a precipitating event that ignites it such as a sudden loss, traumatic event, or victimization,” explained Jasmine Lamitte, Director of Mental Health and Support Services at KIPP SoCal Public Schools.

Studies show that for every death by suicide of a young person, 200 youth attempt. A suicidal youth may just want the pain to end and feels that others would be better off without them. But, suicide is not the answer — ever. In fact, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reported that “suicidal thoughts are a symptom, just like any other — they can be treated, and they can improve over time.”

Suicide is preventable,” stressed Lamitte. “Research shows that talking about suicide effectively lessens a young person’s anxiety and does not put ‘ideas’ in their heads,” she added. “Everyone has a role to play to save lives and create healthy and strong individuals, families, and communities.”4 Any act of kindness can potentially save a life!

TOGETHER FOR MENTAL HEALTH

AB2246 is a California Assembly Bill that requires suicide prevention and intervention for students K-12th, training for teachers, and information for caregivers in all public schools.

All teachers at KIPP SoCal Public Schools are trained on how to recognize and respond to the warning signs for suicide in children and teens. In addition, all KIPP SoCal schools have School Counselors that are trained to assess the level of suicide risk if a student is presenting with significant changes in behavior or makes a statement related to harming themselves or suicide.

A School Counselor will meet with the student to assess their risk for suicide and they do this by asking a series of questions, determining if the student has a plan, means and access, their previous history, risk/protective factors, and more. Counselors will always inform caregivers that a risk assessment was completed and partner with you on the recommended next steps.

We want all school community members to be aware of the warning signs to take swift action!  

SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS

Suicide Warning Signs“Most suicidal individuals do give some warnings that they are in emotional pain and are thinking of hurting themselves,” stated Lamitte. In fact, four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs. In other words, there is an opportunity to intervene and possibly save a person who is at risk. “Even if they are seeking attention, they are doing so because they are in need of help! We can help them,” emphasized Lamitte.

Our Mental Health and Support Services team shared, “when we talk about warning signs — they fall into three categories: behaviors, moods, and things children may say.” For instance, the following are potential warning signs:  

  • History of suicidal ideation/behavior 
  • Increased aggression or irritability
  • Making final arrangements 
  • Preoccupation with death 
  • Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness 
  • Self-injurious behavior (e.g. cutting)
  • Significant changes in behavior or mood
  • Social withdrawal and isolation 
  • Suicide notes and/or plans 
  • Suicide threats (direct or indirect) 

WE CAN ALL TAKE ACTION

If your child, student, friend, or family member confides thoughts of suicide, believe them and get help — take your loved one seriously! 

“Evidence shows that providing support services, talking about suicide, reducing access to means of self-harm, and following up with loved ones are just some of the actions we can all take to help others.”5 

Be the one to help by taking these five action steps6:

  • Ask if they are thinking about suicide. A common myth that asking about suicide causes suicide, but it’s actually the opposite! Asking brings awareness and normalizes asking for help which is a big preventer of suicide.
  • Keep them safe by making sure they get assistance immediately and don’t have access to anything that they could use to harm themselves.
  • Be there for them by listening with empathy to how they are feeling without judgment or minimizing their experience. The important thing about this step is increasing the person’s connection and decreasing their feelings of isolation.
  • Help them connect with support and resources like the suicide prevention hotline, therapy, the school counselor, and/or community supports. Help them identify who their trusted adults are and how to get in contact with them if they need help.
  • Follow-up with them to see how they are doing after your initial contact, keeping them safe and getting them help. This type of contact can continue to increase their feelings of connectedness and share your ongoing support. 

CRISIS RESOURCES

Be the one to help save a life. We can all take action to help prevent suicide. “By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.”7 If you or someone you know are thinking about suicide, contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline available 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741 to get assistance right now! 


Join us on Facebook Live @kippsocal on Wednesday, 9/29 at 4PM for our next #WellnessWednesday community information session during Suicide Prevention Month, where our Mental Health & Support Services leaders discuss myths and facts related to suicide, warning signs, how caregivers can prevent suicide, community resources, and getting help. 

If you have any questions relating to your student's needs, mental health, or support services, please reach out to your School Counselor for help, or email our Mental Health & Support Services team at wellness@kippsocal.org.


1. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Retrieved from www.nami.org.

2. We Can All Prevent Suicide. Retrieved from suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

3. Facts About Suicide. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov.

4. Facts About Suicide. Retrieved from www.cdc.gov.

5.  We Can All Prevent Suicide. Retrieved from suicidepreventionlifeline.org

6. How and Why the 5 Steps Can Help. Retrieved from www.bethe1to.com.

7. We Can All Prevent Suicide. Retrieved from suicidepreventionlifeline.org