As school counselors we need to be pro active in bringing awareness to this national health crisis - suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 10 to 35. The number of attempts in students ages 10 to 14 has increased dramatically over the last few years. School counselors must teach others how to prevent suicide and destigmatize death by suicide. For more resources check out Suicide Awareness Voices of Education www.save.org
Suicide is often a poor solution for a life problem. Teaching problem-solving skills, the capacity to manage feelings, and the ability to turn to trusted adults are critical prevention skills. Maintaining a safe school environment where students and staff feel connected is critical to preventing suicide. Any suspicion of potential suicide places school counselors in a position to immediately assess the student and notify parents/guardians.
School counselors are the first responders to students' mental health needs. School counselors must be informed about signs of suicidal thoughts, knowledgeable about resources, prepare other staff to recognize and report warning signs, assess the risk, and refer students who are high risk to appropriate community agencies. Remember that research shows that people who are having thoughts of suicide feel relief when someone asks after them in a caring way.
Should these preventative practices fail school counselors are key to supportive services. Suicide can affect the entire school community, there is a ripple effect. Survivors have complex feelings after death by suicide, such as shame, fear, and anger. It takes time to reconcile to the reality of death by suicide. The book Touched by Suicide by Myers & Fine is a good resource for adults trying to cope with the loss of a love one. Many survivors find support groups helpful but grief is unique. November 23 is International Survivors of Suicide Loss Day.