Worry, fear, and grief are just some of the feelings many of our students are experiencing after months of living with the social, medical, and economic uncertainty of a pandemic. Unfortunately, without intervention, these overwhelming emotions could lead a fraction of our students to contemplate dark thoughts of suicide.
But for teachers, it can be hard to know whether a student is feeling “down” or might be truly at risk, especially if the only time we see our students is via a screen. However, there are signs to look for, questions to ask. Even when educators are physically distant from their students, they can still help prevent a tragedy like suicide.
Suicide risk for students is on the rise.
Even before the pandemic, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for teens ages 15-19. Data published last year the suicide rate for our older teenagers was higher than it had been in two decades.
Recent losses, abuse, and isolation allsuicide risk. Many of these situations are becoming more common during the pandemic. In addition, youth struggling with mental health issues might find it harder to get help because they are isolated or don’t know how to access medical care during the pandemic.
Educators provide a critical safety net.
Teachers and administrators are well-positioned—sometimes even more so than parents—to objectively spot. These can include changes in behavior, becoming withdrawn, or a sudden change in achievement at school.
Unfortunately, those signs can be harder to distinguish during the pandemic, when many students are struggling emotionally and academically. A youth suicide prevention program, such as Hazelden’s Lifeline Trilogy, can help educators distinguish between students who are dealing with normal pandemic blues and those who might be at risk for suicide.
Talking about suicide doesn’t encourage it.
Admittedly, talking about suicide can be uncomfortable, so many people shy away from it. However, if teachers suspect that a student is suicidal, they should express this concern. Remember—talking about suicide will not encourage it. In fact, it will have the opposite effect. Experts urge people to use the word “suicide” and ask difficult questions like, “Do you have a plan for how you would kill yourself?” These questions help connect the student with the help that they need.
Of course, if the intervention happens remotely, it’s important to know that the student is safe at that moment. School administrators and teachers should work together to develop a youth suicide intervention plan that can be utilized remotely.
Help prevent suicide at your school.
Looking after our students’ mental health is more important than ever this year. Join this free, on-demand webinar:
Using the evidence-based Hazelden Lifelines program as an example, prevention expert Maureen Underwood, LCSW will discuss how to provide support, control, and structure to all members of your school community, even in a virtual setting.
Just click the orange button below to learn more and sign up.