Suicide Prevention Month: Youth Suicide Rates Prompt Call to Action for School Leaders

The National Institute of Health reports that suicide now ranks as the second leading cause of death among individuals ages 10 to 14, and the third leading cause among those ages 15 to 24. 

This concerning trend underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive approach to tackle the complex issue of suicide among young people.

Suicide is a multifaceted problem influenced by numerous factors, including mental health, social dynamics, famiy issues and environmental conditions. In light of this, school leaders across the nation are being called upon to adopt a holistic strategy to combat this growing crisis.

Educators play a pivotal role in suicide prevention by being vigilant about warning signs and knowing how to reach out to students in need. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, immediate help should be sought if someone is displaying suicidal tendencies. This includes calling 911, reaching out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or using the Crisis Text Line by texting "HOME" to 741741.

School psychologists emphasize the legal and ethical responsibility of educators to recognize and respond to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. To facilitate this, schools should have clear policies and procedures in place, along with trained school-employed mental health professionals and crisis response teams. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center offers valuable resources to assist educators in this endeavor.

While September is designated as suicide prevention month, the battle against this crisis must continue year-round. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools. This toolkit is part of a nationwide effort aimed at aiding the one out of every 15 high school students who attempt suicide annually.

Schools not only have to be vigilant about their vulnerable students, but they also must extend support to those grieving after a suicide. 

The Coalition to Support Grieving Students, a partner organization of AFSA, emphasizes the stigma associated with suicide in our society. Survivors often grapple with feelings of guilt, shame, regret and anger. Effective and empathetic communication is vital to help survivors adjust, and reduce the potential risk of others engaging in self-harm or attempting suicide.

The prevention of suicide among students is an intricate and challenging mission, but it is an obligation that school leaders cannot ignore. By establishing a nurturing environment, incorporating mental health education and deploying early intervention strategies, school leaders can assume a pivotal role in safeguarding the well-being of their students. 

It is imperative to remember that our students' welfare encompasses more than just academics. By addressing their emotional and mental health needs, we can genuinely provide them with a well-rounded education and a brighter future.

For further information on suicide prevention, please click here.