Connecting Suicidal At-Risk Students with help through best practices
According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide is on a rise in youth ages 15-24. It is the third leading cause of death in that age bracket. Suicide is attempted every 13 ½ minutes. In this age group, 105 suicides are completed per day. Suicide is a common cause of death worldwide, more common than death by accidents, homicides, and wars. A person that actually dies in suicide is defined a completed suicide by the AAS. [Report from a workshop presentation at the recent AOCC- All Ohio Counselors Conference held 11/6-8/2013. Article contributed by Candice, Pomegranate Customer Relations Specialist.] Its a timely subject with three teens in Central Ohio recently dying by suicide as reported on NBC 11/20 and in The Columbus Dispatch 11/21.
Presenter Jared Rose, MA, PC/CR, NCC, Licensed Professional Counselor at Inner View Behavioral Care, said that according to the CDC- Center for Disease and Control & Prevention (2012), men are 4 times more likely to complete suicide. Men are also less likely to utilize support systems to avoid suicide attempts. Women are 3 times more likely to attempt, but not complete suicide. Women are also more likely to utilize support systems to avoid the suicide attempt. Rose also shared that according to the SPRC (2012a), every 90 minutes a woman completes suicide, and every 78 seconds a woman attempts suicide. According to NIMH-The National Institute of Mental Health (2012), regardless of gender, 90% who completed suicide had a diagnosable mental illness at the time of death. The most common mental health disorders for completing suicide are depressive and bipolar disorders.
Rose identified special populations that are suffering from suicide, starting with youth, age 10¬-24. This age group continues to commit suicide at increasing rates according to the APA-American Psychological Association (2001). The Center for Disease Control Prevention(2012) conducted a national survey looking at 9th-12th graders over the past 12 months. They found 16% seriously consider suicide, 13% create a plan for suicide, and 8% attempted suicide. Using Counseling and Psychological Service (CPS), University of California Berkley (2013), Caruso ( 2013) and SPRC (2012) data, he moved to the next ‘at- risk’ population, college students. Among college Students ages 18-24, the leading cause of death is suicide. One in ten has considered suicide, and 50% reported feeling so depressed they found it difficult to function in school. The third ‘at-risk’ population is LGBTQ- Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (defined as ‘un-decided’) individuals. The APA (2001), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (2003), and SPRC (2008) report that suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death. Fully 30% of the LGBTQ community will have attempted suicide before the age of 15, Rose said.
Krista Sturdevant, MA, LSC, who works as an Academic Affairs Specialist at the University of Toledo, and Wendy Nathan MS, PCCS, Director of Mercy College of Ohio share responsibility in conducting screening assessments. They presented what our role and responsibility should be in preventing the crisis of suicide in our schools. Studevant stated that, “talking about suicide does not cause someone to consider suicide, nor does it cause them to attempt, or complete suicide.” Sturdevant said we should not be afraid of the word, ‘suicide’, and challenged the audience that they have been charged with a legal and ethical obligation to ‘do no harm’, and protect clients in a variety of ways. That includes preventing, or intervening on behalf of those who would self-harm.
Nathan introduced best practices to help aid in suicide prevention. These included the following points: 1. Early prevention can help provide support; 2. Stigma-busting re. mental health issues; 3. Being up-to-date with new programs in mental health; and, 4.Linking the student to mental health experts. To guide in implementing these best practices, House Bill 543 now mandates that all public Ohio middle and high schools train all staff in youth suicide awareness and prevention each year, to be in compliance with the Jason Flatt Act.
Sturdevant and Nathan introduced the Kognito 24-7 online suicide prevention tool. Kognito is offered free to Ohio public and charter schools. Kognito provides role-playing communication scenarios. These scenarios support prevention and help the staff in early intervention. Kognito program learning objectives are to: 1.Identify warning signs; 2. Manage conversations with students; 3. Allow teachers and staff to say the word, ‘Suicide’; 4. Allow students to feel safe and seek help; 5. Avoid common mistakes such as giving advice, and/or attempts to diagnose; and 6. Provide linkage to mental health professionals.
The role of school personnel is to become ‘gate-keepers’. Coaches, janitors, and lunch ladies along with teachers and administration, are on the front line with students. These individuals have existing relationships, and are more likely to see worrisome behaviors. Using the Kognito online tool reduces the anxiety of the gate-keeper. It reduces the stigma associated with mental illness, promotes early intervention, and allows a troubled youth to receive treatment early. Using Kognito can notify the family sooner to issues the student is having.
Accessing the training is very simple. School administration sets up the program for the school. It’s easily done by going to http://highschool.kognito.com/ohio. [Use the enrollment key ohio345, and follow the steps.] Administration from the school can track who trained on Kognito and when training was completed. A certification of completion is then generated, and can be printed.
The presenters stressed that being proactive in suicide prevention is not only an obligation, but also, law. It is critical to saving youth and making a change in their lives. Being a gatekeeper promotes good coping skills in life-changing measures. Say the word “Suicide,” and save a life!
American Association of Suicidology (AAS). (2012). Suicide in the U.S.A. suicide 2010 official final data. Washington,D.C: Author.
American Psychological Association (APA) (2001, September). Testimony of the American Psychological Association submitted to the Children and Families Subcommittee. Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee of the United States Senate, for the hearing record on teen and young adult suicide: A national health crisis. Washington DC: Author
Caruso, K (2013) College student suicide. Retrieved from http://www.suicide.org/college-student-suicide.html
Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2012). Suicide prevention. Youth suicide. Retrieved from
Counseling Psychological Service (CPS). University of California Berkley. (2013). What you need to know about college
students and suicide. Retrieved from http://www.uhs.berkeley.edu/students/counseling/PDF/CollegeStudents
Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network(2012) The 2011 national school climate survey. Retrieved from
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). (2012a). Older adults. Depression and suicide facts. ( NIMH Publication No.4593)
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). (2008). Suicide risk and prevention for lesbian gay, bisexual, and transgender youth.
Newton MA: Education Development Center Inc.
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC). (2012a). About Suicide. Retrieved from http://www.spr.org/basics/about-suicide.
[Photo credit by Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Dreamstime 31010072 Depressed girl with therapist.]