Uploaded by Jennifer Marie

it takes a village

Suicide – It Takes A Village
86% of parents of suicidal children are unaware of their child’s suicidal behavior (Miller
et al., 2009). . Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in the U.S. among youths age 5-25,
resulting in 7,625 deaths in 2017 (CDC Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System). The recent
news on suicides across the valley have many crying out for help. Many parents may not feel
the schools are doing enough. Schools are stepping up their games and offering more, but still
struggling to get a significant turnout for most parent related events. Parents are outright
struggling with what to do with their kids. Who is to blame? Is anyone?
The truth be told, it is equally as important for school staff and parents to be aware of
possible and potential signs of suicide in any child. It is not entirely the job of a parent. It is not
entirely the job of the school. At the end of the day, as they say, “It takes a village.”
So, what can we do? How can we be more aware of what we need to look for? Here are
some important points to be aware of:
Do not be afraid to talk with your children about suicide.
Know the risk factors and warning signs of suicide.
Respond immediately if your child is showing warning signs.
Reach out to the school for resources.
Make all firearms and prescription drugs in the home inaccessible to children.
So, let’s really break this down. First and foremost is that tough conversation with your
kids. Many believe that if they talk to their kids about suicide it will cause them to want to
suicide or will put ideas in their head. This is not true. Not to mention, in speaking to them,
they will likely open up to you if they have been feeling suicidal or may have a suicidal friend.
Talking about it helps remove the stigma often associated with mental health. Even if your child
is not suicidal, they may have been afraid to tell you they were feeling anxious or depressed, as
they thought you would be upset with them. By having this conversation, you are telling them
that it is OK to not be OK. You are assuring them that you do not associate a stigma with mental
health and this is important to you too.
Many schools are/have been providing training to all incoming freshman students with
regards to suicide. These trainings are also typically offered to parents in an evening session, so
they too can learn the signs and what to look for. Most schools are now offering Teen Lifeline
contact information printed on the back of all student ID cards. Mesa Schools is purchasing the
software for all their schools for the 2019/2020 school year, to ensure every student has an ID
with teen lifeline contact information printed on the back.
Before having that conversation about suicide, make sure you know the risk factors and
warning signs of suicide. Depression, substance abuse, previous attempts, family history of
suicide and youth who are dealing with loss or problems with the law, or who have easy access
to lethal means, like guns, are most at risk of suicide and suicide attempts. Lesbian, gay,
bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth are at an increased risk for suicide if
struggling with sexual orientation, experiencing peer rejection or bullying, or anticipating or
experiencing familial rejection. Warning signs can include changes in sleep and appetite,
dramatic mood changes, acting out; violent behavior, a general sense of
helplessness/hopelessness, increased risky behavior (such as drinking, using drugs and
gunplay), sudden changes in personality and in friends, changes in physical habits and
appearance (either negative or positive), inability to concentrate on routine activities, changes
in classroom behavior, and failing grades. If it is new for your child, it may be a red flag. Some
kids will outright say “I am going to kill myself”, “No one would miss me anyway” or “I just want
to die.”
In other urgent serious situations, kids may seek out pills, weapons, rope, or other
means to complete suicide. Some may talk, write or draw pictures associated with suicide. Kids
often have, what is referred to as a precipitating event, occur right before they attempt to
suicide. These events can include the breakup of a relationship, family problems, feeling like
they do not belong anywhere, sexual, physical or mental abuse, drug or alcohol addiction,
mental Illness (more than 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder
(NIMH, 2009), trouble with authority, legal issues, the death of a loved one, school or work
problems, or any problem that seems hopeless.
If you notice any of these signs in your child, please take them seriously! Even if you do
not think they are capable of suiciding, seek help immediately but calling 911, the Maricopa
County Crisis (602) – 222-9444, or Teen Lifeline (602) – 248-8336.
Reach out to the school for resources. Many schools in Arizona have added school based
Social Workers, who are there as a point of contact for both you and your kids. All Mesa High
Schools have a full time Social Worker on each campus, and they are hiring more. Chandler
schools are also hiring some Social Work positions for the 2019/2020 school year. Tempe
Schools have Social Workers on many campuses and many other districts have a couple of
Social Workers throughout their district. Please check with your school to determine who you
can contact. School Social Workers typically have an abundance of resources for families who
are seeking help. Additionally, they are there to support you and your child during a transition
back to school, should they need to be hospitalized.
Help your children build or recognize their protective factors. These include good family
relationships and support from family, strong problem-solving skills, physical activity or
participation in sports, access to mental healthcare, social interaction (e.g., through clubs,
activities religious organizations), and to build positive relationships with teachers and other
adults. As much as most parents want to be their child’s “go to adult”, typically we aren’t.
Encourage your child to identify an adult they are comfortable talking to, to be their go to
What else can we do? Make all firearms and prescription drugs in the home inaccessible
to children. You can pick up magnetic locks at most hardware stores for around $15 for a set of
six. These locks secure your medications, preventing them from being easily accessible to any
children (including your kid’s friends). Firearms should be kept locked in a safe. Talk to your kids
often about important topics like drugs, alcohol and suicide. Create a codeword they can
text/say to you when they are struggling. We use “miserable” as the code word in our home.
This allows our children to let us know they are struggling emotionally, may be considering self-
harm or suicide or they just do not know how to start the conversation. Step back a little if you
find, as a parent, you are often hovering over your child. Stop hounding them about their
grades and homework and let them accept the natural consequences of their own actions. It’s
OK to let our kids fail every so often (and it’s actually healthy). No one is going to be there to fix
things for them when they are on their own, so now is a good time to stop fixing things for
them and let them learn from their own mistakes. Validate your child’s feelings. Even if you do
not understand or have experience feeling the way that they do, it is important to remind them
that their feelings do matter. Keep the crisis line number and Teen Lifeline number on the
fridge. This allows your child(ren) to know that it is acceptable in your home to call for help
should they need it.