In light of the recent suicide attempt at Ygnacio Valley High School in Concord, crisis counselors from nearby Northgate High in Walnut Creek sent a message to parents addressing the issue of teen suicide. I have received permission to reprint their message in my blog:
“From the office of the Crisis Counselors, Michelle Dooner and Jill Sabotka
Many of you probably know that a student at Ygnacio Valley High School recently attempted suicide in the middle of his 6th period class. Thankfully, some of his peers saw this and intervened. They were able to stop him and he is currently recovering at the hospital. This incident hits us particularly hard because Y.V. is part of our community, it’s our neighboring school, we have friends that go there, we compete against it in sports, etc.
As parents, you may have experienced a wide range of emotions upon hearing the news, from shock to sadness to outrage to horror to dismay to anxiety and much more. Your children are experiencing their own set of feelings regarding this incident. It’s all over Facebook and we can be quite certain that this information might not be entirely accurate.
This would be an excellent opportunity to talk to your child about what they’ve heard, what they believe, and how they feel about what happened. If your child isn’t talking about it, don’t hesitate to bring it up. Most likely, he or she has heard of it. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in adolescents. Talking about what the suicidal student must have been feeling and what his peers must have gone through as witnesses can open the door to a much deeper conversation about suicide in general. Being open to hearing what your child has to say and not responding with shock or disapproval but simply by listening will enable you to have a healthy conversation with your child. Your openness shows that your are taking your child seriously, which in turn will make him or her want to continue to talk. One of the most important aspects of teen suicide prevention is support. Your child needs to know that you support and love him or her unconditionally.
The following information has been taken from www.teensuicidestatistics.com and has been included in this article to be used as a guide and reference point.
Causes of teen suicide
There are several different factors that made lead a teenager to take his or her life, but the most common is depression. Feelings of hopelessness and anxiety, along with feelings of being trapped in a life that one can’t handle, are very real contributors to teen suicide. In some cases, teenagers believe that suicide is the only way to solve their problems. The pressures of life seem too much to cope with, and some teenager look at suicide as a welcome escape.
Other factors that may contribute to teen suicide include:
Divorce of parents.
Violence in the home.
Inability to find success at school.
Feelings of worthlessness.
Rejection by friends or peers.
Death of someone close to the teenager.
The suicide of a friend or someone he or she “knows” online.
Signs that your teenager may attempt suicide
It is important to be on the look out for signs that your teen may attempt suicide. What is so difficult about some of these warning signs of teen suicide is that some of them are similar to normal adolescent behavior. The teenage years are a trying time, and sometimes normal behavior looks a lot like possibly destructive behavior. But it doesn’t hurt to look into the following warning signs of teen suicide:
Talks about death and/or suicide (maybe even with a joking manner).
Plans ways to kill him or herself.
Expresses worries that nobody cares about him or her.
Has attempted suicide in the past.
Dramatic changes in personality and behavior.
Withdraws from interacting with friends and family.
Shows signs of depression.
Shows signs of a substance abuse problem.
Begins to act recklessly and engage in risk-taking behaviors.
Begins to give away sentimental possessions.
Spends time online interacting with people who glamorize suicide and maybe even form suicide pacts.
Preventing teen suicide
Often, preventing teen suicide means treating teen depression. Since 75 percent of the people who commit suicide are depressed, it is a good start to begin by treating the symptoms of teen depression.
It is possible to get professional help in preventing teen suicide. Indeed, this is a preferred option. If you are concerned about your teenager, talk to your child’s doctor about the available options and therapies for teen depression. You should see someone immediately (and never leave your teen alone) if you suspect that a suicide attempt is imminent. Some things you might try include:
Counseling. This can be done individually or as a family. Techniques allow your teenager to learn to cope with life. Often, when a teen learns how to handle problems (and families learn how to help), the desire to kill him or herself dissipates.
Residential treatment. This is treatment in which a suicidal teen goes elsewhere to live for a time. This can be a special treatment facility, or it can be a therapeutic boarding school. In these settings, the teenager is monitored 24/7 in order to prevent a suicide attempt. Additionally, most residential treatment facilities have trained professional staff that can help a suicidal teen.
Medication. This is often seen as a last resort, or as something complementary to other treatments. It is important to note that in some teenagers, medication can have the opposite effect desired; some studies show that for some teens anti-depressants actually increase the chance of teen suicide. Carefully consider your teen’s needs before medicating.
Please know that if you have concerns that you want to discuss, you may call us at 925-938-3921. We are here to talk to you.
There is a great deal of information about teen suicide on the internet. Here are a few websites:
The Contra Costa Crisis Center is also a great resource:
The National Suicide Hotline:
The California Youth Crisis Hotline:
Thanks to Northgate High for this information. Northgate is fortunate to have crisis counselors on campus, through funding from the city of Walnut Creek and the school’s Parent Faculty Club.
Do you have any other suggestions for helping teens in crisis?
MARCH 16 UPDATE: I spoke to Ygnacio Valley High Principal Bill Morones today, who told me the student’s outlook has improved since the suicide attempt March 2, although he has not yet returned to school.
“The student is in a much better state of mind than he was at the time of the incident,” Morones said.
The school’s student services coordinators and psychologist, along with district crisis counselors, helped the campus community deal with the emotional impact in the days afterward.
Morones said he was extremely proud of the students who intervened and of the entire student body’s reaction.
“Our students are extremely resilient,” he said. “The feedback that I got from our crisis counselors was they were just overwhelmed by our students’ compassion and the caring they exhibited toward the student and his family.”