Suicide is a complicated matter that doesn’t have one main cause. Certain factors such as substance abuse, depression or anxiety may prevent a person from thinking clearly about the situation. Sometimes these conditions are not identified or noticed; other times, someone will show obvious symptoms or signs.
Suicide Warning Signs
Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct ("I am going to kill myself") and indirect ("I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again") statements.
- Suicide notes and plans (including online postings).
- Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions).
- Preoccupation with death.
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
Suicide Risk Factors
Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odds of having suicidal thoughts. These include:
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.
- Family stress/dysfunction.
- Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home.
- Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence).
- Previous suicide attempt
- Decline of health
- Relationship issues
- Death or illness of a loved one
- Decrease in grades or performances
- Family history of depression
- Someone close to you has died by suicide
What to Do
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
LISTEN. Avoid making judging statements such as “you don’t want to do that.” Instead make statements such as “Help me understand what life is like for you right now”.
ASK. Talking about suicide does not make a student suicidal. Asking if someone is having suicidal thoughts give him/her permission to talk about it. Asking send s the message that you are concerned and want to help.
TAKE SIGNS SERIOUSLY. Studies have found that more than 75% of people who die by suicide showed some of the warning signs in the weeks or months prior to their death.
GET HELP. If you have concerns that your child is suicidal, seek immediate help from a mental health practitioner. Suicidal students need to be evaluated to assess risk and develop a treatment plan. You may want to consult with your insurance company to obtain a list of mental health providers covered by your insurance. You can also ask school staff for information on free or low-cost counseling resources.
PROHIBIT ACCESS TO WEAPONS, PRESCRIPTIONS DRUGS, MEDICATION, AND OTHER MEANS.
DO NOT LEAVE HIM OR HER ALONE. Supervise your child until you can get help from a mental health professional.
REASSURE YOUR CHILD THAT LIFE CAN GET BETTER. Many suicidal people have lost all hope that life can improve. They may have difficulty problem solving even simple issues. Remind your child that no matter how bad things are, the problem can be worked out. Offer your help.
- Remain calm.
- Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide (e.g., "Are you thinking of suicide?"). Asking the suicide question does not increase the risk.
- How not to ask the question - "You're not suicidal are you?"
- Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
- Listen to the problem and give them your full attention.
- Offer help in any form.
- Then ask, "Will you go with me to get help?" or "Will you let me help you?" and "Will you promise not to kill yourself until we've found some help?"
- Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
- Do not judge.
- Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
- Remove means for self-harm.
- Get help: No one should ever agree to keep a youth's suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.
Any willingness to accept help, even if in the future, is a good outcome. The best referral involves taking the person directly to someone who can help. The next best referral is getting a commitment from them to accept help, and then making the arrangements to get that help.
A number of resources are available to support students and their families in crisis:
Colorado Crisis Support Line: 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or Colorado Crisis Text: text TALK to 38255
Safe2Tell: 1-877-542-SAFE (7233)
Trevor Project Hotline for Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ youth 866-488-7386
District 6 Programs/Curriculum
Sources of Strength is an evidenced based suicide prevention program designed to empower students and adult leaders to engage in connection, hope, help and strength.
Sources is now implemented in all of our high schools, McAuliffe K-8, and Fred Tjardes school of Innovation
Please visit our District 6 Sources of Strength Facebook page See more about Sources of Strength at SOURCES OF STRENGTH WEBSITE
- Youth Mental First Aid
District 6 teachers have the opportunity to participate in professional development to gain skills to better support students with trauma and mental health.
- Youth Mental First Aid