Suicide Prevention 1

March 22, 2018

The following is my weekly letter to the Bishop Chatard HS parent community:

To our Bishop Chatard parent community:

We face a sobering reality that the number of suicides among teenagers has steadily increased in the state of Indiana since 2007. The situation is such that the Department of Education is requiring that all teachers and administrators be trained in suicide prevention beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

Thanks to Social Worker Becky Wilde, and Principal Joe Hansen, Bishop Chatard is getting ahead of the requirement by engaging our staff in this training now. It will be completed in two sessions, the first having taken place this past Monday morning, the second on this upcoming Monday. The presenter is Carlabeth Mathias, MS, LCSW, LMHC from Mathias Counseling and Consulting.

I thought it might be helpful to share the information we received and discussed in those sessions. Informing you is yet another step we can take to help our youth.

The suicide prevention training is called QPR. This is an acronym for Question…Persuade…Refer.

The training is not intended to be a form of counseling or treatment, but rather is intended to offer hope through positive action.

The training began with some staggering statistics:

  • In the United States annually, 4822 youths (age 15-24) commit suicide
  • In the state of Indiana, for ages 15 to 24, suicide is the second leading cause of death

What types of things serve as “protective factors” to decrease the probability of suicide?:

  • Effective and appropriate clinical care
  • Easy access to a variety of interventions and support
  • Safe schools – a place where students feel loved and accepted
  • Family connectedness
  • Skills in problem-solving, conflict resolution, and non-violent resolution of disputes
  • Religious beliefs that support the preservation of life
  • Positive social relationships
  • Feeling needed – they matter or have value

What are the “risk factors” that increase the possibility one might consider suicide?:

  • Mental illness, especially mood disorders
  • Alcohol and substance abuse
  • Firearms in the household
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Significant loss – relational, social
  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
  • Exposure to suicide – friend, family, social media, cluster suicides in area
  • Low self-esteem, sense of isolation

Some suicide myths and facts:

Myth: No one can stop a suicide; it is inevitable.

Fact: If people in crisis get the help they need, they will likely never be suicidal again

*****

Myth: Confronting a person about suicide will only make him or her angry and increase the risk of suicide.

Fact: Asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communication, and lowers the risk of an impulsive act.

*****

Myth: Suicidal people keep their plans to themselves.

Fact: Most suicidal people communicate their intent, directly or indirectly, sometime during the week preceding their attempt.

*****

Myth: Once a person decides to commit suicide, there is nothing anyone can do to stop it.

Fact: Suicide is the most preventable kind of death and almost any positive action may save a life.

*****

Myth: If a suicidal youth tells a friend, the friend will access help.

Fact: Unfortunately, most young people do not tell an adult. (Something we work hard to correct at Bishop Chatard)

*****

What are the clues and warning signs? All should be taken seriously!

  • Direct verbal clues: “I want to kill myself”…”I wish I was dead”
  • Indirect verbal clues: “I just can’t go on”…”Who cares if I’m dead anyway?”
  • Behavioral clues: Giving away prized possessions, acquiring a gun or stockpiling pills, unexplained anger or aggression, increased risk-taking, written notes or social media posts about death or dying, changes in interaction with family and friends
  • Situational clues: Loss of a major relationship, death or trauma, fear of punishment, humiliation

The majority of the first training session covered the “what” of suicide. The second session will focus on the “how.” How do we ask questions of someone we consider suicidal? How do we persuade them that life is worth living? How do we get the person the help he or she needs.

Next week, I will summarize Session 2 for you.

If you would be interested in having Carlabeth, or another qualified presenter, come to Bishop Chatard some evening this spring to speak to parents on this issue, please e-mail me at rwagner@bishopchatard.org

If there is enough interest, I would be happy to arrange for such a presentation.

As we so often acknowledge, it takes a village to teach, lead, guide, and love our children.

Thank you!

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