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Social Services » Youth Suicide

Youth Suicide


1. Suicide notes: These are very real signs of danger and should be taken seriously.

2. Threats: Threats may be direct ("I want to die." "I am going to kill myself") or, unfortunately, indirect ("The world would be better without me," "Nobody will miss me anyway"). In adolescence, indirect clues could be offered through joking or through references in school assignments, particularly creative writing or art pieces. Young children and those who view the world in more concrete terms may not be able to express their feelings in words, but may provide indirect clues in the form of acting-out, violent behavior, often accompanied by suicidal/homicidal threats.

3. Previous attempts: Often the best predictor of future behavior is past   behavior, which can indicate a coping style.

4. Depression: (helplessness/hopelessness). When symptoms of depression include pervasive thoughts of helplessness and hopelessness, a child or adolescent is conceivably at greater risk for suicide.

5.  Masked depression:  Risk-taking behaviors can include acts of aggression, gunplay, and alcohol/substance abuse.

6.  Final arrangements:  This behavior may take many forms. In  adolescents, it might be giving away prized possessions such as  jewelry, clothing, journals or pictures.
7.  Efforts to hurt oneself:  Self-mutilating behaviors occur among children as young as elementary school-age. Common self-destructive behaviors include running into traffic, jumping from heights, and scratching/cutting/marking the body.

8.  Inability to concentrate or think rationally: Such problems may be   reflected in children's classroom behavior, homework habits, academic performance, household chores, even conversation.

9.  Changes in physical habits and appearance: Changes include inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, sudden weight gain or loss,  disinterest in appearance, hygiene, etc.
10. Sudden changes in personality, friends, behaviors: Parents, teachers, and peers are often the best observers of sudden changes in suicidal students. Changes can include withdrawing from normal relationships, increased absenteeism in school, loss of involvement in regular interests and activities, and social withdrawal and isolation.
11. Death and suicidal themes: These might appear in classroom drawings, work samples, journals or homework. Plan/method/access. A suicidal child or adolescent may show an increased focus on guns and other weapons, increased access to guns, pills, etc., and/or may talk about or allude to a suicide plan. The greater the planning, the greater the potential.

(From the National Association of School Psychologists paper "Times of Tragedy: Preventing Suicide in Troubled Children and Youth, Part I")

1.   Know the warning signs!

2.   Do not be afraid to talk to your child. Talking to your child about suicide will not put thoughts into their head. In fact, all available evidence indicates that talking to your child lowers the risk of suicide.The message is, "Suicide is not an option, and help is available."

3.   Suicide-proof your home:  Make the knives, pills and, above all, the firearms inaccessible.

4.   Utilize school and community resources: This can include your school psychologist, crisis intervention personnel, suicide prevention groups or hotlines, or private mental health professionals.

5.   Take immediate action: If your child indicates he/she is contemplating suicide, or if your gut instinct tells you they might hurt themselves, get help. Do not leave your child alone. Even if he/she denies "meaning it," stay with your child. Reassure him/her. Seek professional help. If necessary, drive your child to the hospital's emergency room to ensure that he/she is in a safe environment until a psychiatric evaluation can be completed.

6.  Listen to your child's friends: They may give hints that they are worried about their friend, but may be uncomfortable telling you directly. Be open. Ask questions.

From NASP: Times of Tragedy: Preventing Suicides in Troubled Children and Youth, Part I

1.    Know the warning signs!

2 .   Know the school's responsibilities.

3.    Encourage students to confide in you: Let students know that you are there to help, that you care. Encourage them to come to you if they or someone they know is considering suicide.

4.    Refer student immediately:  Generally do not "send" a student to the school psychologist or counselor. If possible, escort the child yourself to a member of the school's crisis team. If a team has not been identified, notify the principal, psychologist, counselor, nurse or social worker. (And as soon as possible, request that your school organize a crisis team!)

5.    Join the crisis team: You have valuable information to contribute so that the school crisis team can make an accurate assessment of risk.

6.    Advocate for the child: Sometimes administrators may minimize risk factors and warning signs in a particular student. Advocate for the child until you are certain the child is safe.

From NASP: Times of Tragedy: Preventing Suicides in Troubled Children and Youth, Part I