Steps to Suicide Prevention

Abby Roberts, Culture Section Editor

Suicide rates have been rising in recent years, On average, adjusted for age, the annual U.S. suicide rate increased 24% between 1999 and 2014, from 10.5 to 13.0 suicides per 100,000 people, the highest rate recorded in 28 years, according to CDC. These statistics show that teenagers in high school right now are surrounded more by suicide than any other generation. This “epidemic” has caused high schools to rethink how they view suicide, leading to many different suicide prevention programs. These programs can also lead to criticism from students, these critics include misunderstanding how teenagers feel, glorifying suicide, or the lack of programs. Liberty North has a mixture of opinions that can be seen. 

   “I do not really think Liberty North has done that much in the way of suicide prevention. I know that we have done the awareness videos and that sort of thing in the past, but that really does not seem adequate to me. It is taken as a joke and not taken seriously. It is kind of a one and done type of thing for the school like, ‘oh we have to do this one thing, and once we do that it is good,’” senior Ella Pritchett said. 

   Students can critique the programs that schools have implemented, but many also provide other solutions to understand students better. 

   “There has to be some kind of outreach, but it should come from the students. It can not be a school started thing, because most people have trust issues with the adults at this school or they do not trust that anyone here will really understand and they will just get reported with their parents finding out. We have to train the students of this generation to understand the signs and how to prevent it and how to reach out to our friends, then we will have a greater impact on students who are struggling,” junior Sophia Bolin said. 

   From the view of faculty, suicide prevention can be an extremely difficult thing to teach and spread awareness about. Student bodies can be diverse, this is especially true for Liberty North, and teaching a diverse body of students can be seen as a challenge with many different minds at work. 

   “Liberty North is in our third year of implementing the SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program. It is a school-wide awareness and prevention program where we teach students how to look for signs of depression or suicide in themselves or their peers. We also teach parents and family members, as well as all the staff in our building,” counselor Lauren Eikel said. 

   Glorifying suicide is another issue with students and faculty alike. Glorification is hard to escape, with many books, movies, and television shows that can be seen as glorifying suicide. 

   “I would say just be more vocal about it. I know that our school has tried, they have, it is just not enough. People still treat it as a joke, so just being more vocal about it and making sure that conversation is open can really be helpful. Even little stuff, like posting the suicide hotline around the school and having it on the website can be really important. When the counselors do their “one and done” thing it just seems like it is something to check off the list. We need to do these things continuously through the year, I feel like that would have a bigger impact and it would be more visible to the students to go and get help if needed from the counselors,” Pritchett said. 

   Talk about suicide has been seen as encouragement about the act of suicide, this has been a debate through books, movies, and television shows, and the prevalence of suicide in the media in general.

   “It is important to remember that talking about suicide does not give people the idea of doing it. That is a common misconception, that if we talk about it we give people the thought, but actually the opposite is true. When we talk about it and make it an environment where people feel safe to talk about it, we find that they feel more supported and can get the help that they need,” Eikel said. 

   Media seems to be a leading factor in suicide rates skyrocketing. Of 719 individuals aged 14 to 24 years, 79% reported being exposed to suicide-related content through family, friends, and traditional news media such as newspapers, and 59% found such content through Internet sources. 

   “I think that social media has a huge impact on that, like online bullying. I think society has a bigger impact on us now then it did when our parents were kids, so societal pressure has a huge impact on that,” Clapper said. 

   Some call this media interference the “media contagion effect,” which can be seen as online harassment spread through the media or the further glorification of an act by showing multiple times in the media.

   “There are a lot of factors that go into that. In my personal opinion, part of it has to do with social media and some of the pressures that young people face compared to when I was growing up. We didn’t see what everyone else was doing 24/7, and we weren’t always comparing ourselves to that degree, as maybe some young people are nowadays. Just the prevalence of depression and other mental health disorders becoming more common, I think sometimes leads to higher suicide rates,” Eikel said. 

   Something that most everyone in a high school environment can agree on is that suicide prevention resources are a must. Mental health access is one of those resources.

   “I think that having more mental health access would help a lot. Some people just need someone to talk to, just having a conversation can change someone’s thoughts and opinion about self-harm,” Clapper said. 

   Fitting to everyone’s needs can be a hard thing to do when handling suicide prevention, an analogy can be used to describe this. 

   “I see a lot of my friends struggling with this topic and it is a hard problem because most people are focused on the healing process of suicide with, “oh no this happened, how do we all move on.” Take for example the analogy of the flu shot, if you get the flu shot you are not gonna get the flu, but sometimes people say that they do not really need the flu shot, but it is most logical to get it. Suicide prevention should be seen, but it is not a one size fits all type of thing, like hanging up the stereotypical posters is not going to help everyone,” Bolin said. 

   Suicide prevention is put in place to protect all of the student body at a high school, this includes giving students the proper resources to help themselves and their classmates. 

   “The best thing to do is to implement the ACT message if a peer is showing signs of suicidal tendencies, which has been seen in the SOS program before will remember this, the ACT message stands for acknowledge, care, and tell. What you need to do is acknowledge that there are concerning signs in your peer, express that you care about them, then tell a trusted adult. Examples of trusted adults are anyone in the school you feel safe talking to, whether that is a teacher, a counselor, a nurse. Telling a trusted adult who can take the next step to make sure that that young person gets the help that they need,” Eikel said.