3 Strategies to Help Stop Teen Suicide
The first time I contemplated suicide was in 2004. I was 29 years old.
My first marriage had crumbled. I was extremely embarrassed by such a public failure. I felt like I had nothing left to live for.
If you’ve read my book, Building Resilient Students From the Inside Out, you know that this was a fleeting thought, but the darkness of that day is seared into my mind.
There are students on your campus who feel the same way. They might not feel the public embarrassment of being the first one of their friends to crash and burn at marriage, but they surely could feel embarrassment because of a post on social media or a poor choice at a party. Or maybe they’re just searching for something – anything – to make the struggle of life worth the effort.
Suicide is a huge issue in America. It is the #2 leading killer of our high school aged students, and we have over 100 people a day complete this permanent and painful act.
That’s like one Southwest Airline crashing every single day in our country…except no one is talking about it. It’s not on your Facebook feed, it’s not on the cover of your CNN app, and it’s certainly not a story on the news.
As educational leaders, we must bring this issue to the forefront.
How do we do this?
#1 – Help Teens Realize They Are Not Alone
I consider myself a well adjusted, healthy, educated person, but during a moment of darkness difficult thoughts can enter anyone’s mind. Your teens are no different, and I am willing to bet that you’re no different as well. This is why I encourage teens and adults to take their mask off and tell their truth. Being vulnerable about our feelings is an extremely courageous and powerful act. CLICK HERE for more insight on how I am able to do this during a school assembly with 1,000’s of students.
#2 – Start the Conversation
Suicide is real. It’s happening. So if we all agree that this is real, then let’s talk to them about it! This could mean a guidance lesson or school program around the issue, but it might also look like a charismatic adult simply having a conversation with his or her students. It is ok to broach the subject! We want our students to be educated and connected, so if they do have a dark moment they know that brighter times lie ahead. For more on the power of charismatic adults, CLICK HERE to receive a free download of the first two chapters of my BUILDING RESILIENT STUDENTS book where I discuss this concept in detail.
#3 – Develop a Comprehensive Suicide Awareness Program
Some schools dedicate a week to suicide prevention. That’s great but…what about all of the other weeks in the school year? Work to create a comprehensive suicide/mental health awareness program, this should not just be a week of stickers and ribbons, it should be a tactical effort deployed through the ENTIRE year. Include peer-to-peer programs, SEL curriculum, counselor and teacher reach outs, calm down spaces, hotline availability, activities by various clubs or sport, and so much more.
For more on how to actually implement these ideas on campus, I went straight to the best expert I know. Penny Knight is TEEN TRUTH’s school counselor and this month she wrote a tremendous blog on the importance of developing a comprehensive program. You don’t want to miss a word of what she wrote. CLICK HERE to give it a read or CLICK HERE to download a free lesson plan that her students actually came up with.
Let’s start the conversation today. Those of you reading this message are true culture warriors and we must #nevegiveup.
JC Pohl, LMFT
President & CEO, TEEN TRUTH