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Preventing Youth Suicide

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  1. Preventing Youth Suicide What to Know. What to Do. John Stone and Becky Sandhaus

  2. Goals for this training • Present background data • Discuss risk factors • Identify early and late suicide warning signs • Prepare you to ACT! • End youth suicide

  3. What is “Gatekeeper Training?” • It’s like CPR for suicide prevention… • We do it so everyone knows how to respond • It clears up myths and misperceptions • It can end the fear of asking about suicide • Research shows gatekeeper training is effective • Gatekeeper training helps us keep students safe.

  4. KS High School Survey 2009

  5. Middle School YRBS—2005 • Five states and eight urban areas • 22% of Middle School students seriously considered suicide • More than 9% made a plan • More than 8% made an attempt

  6. Is suicide really very common? Suicide: 280

  7. How does Kansas compare to USA? • Our rate is 19th highest in the nation. It’s 30% higher than the national average! • If we had a youth suicide rate the same as the national average, instead of 280 youth suicides, there would have been about 200…

  8. Risk Factors: Increase the odds • The most important risk factors: • A previous suicide attempt • Exposure to suicide • Friends • Family members • In the community • In the media

  9. Other Risk Factors • Depression and hopelessness • Using drugs or alcohol • Teenage crisis • Risky behaviors • School problems • Trouble solving problems

  10. Early Warning Signs: Be Watchful • In girls, often see social isolation • In boys, often see anger problems • Difficulty concentrating • Decline in quality of school work • Change in eating habits • Boredom • Physical symptoms related to emotions

  11. Why? No one knows for sure, but… Young people lack the perspective of time, can lack coping skills and adequate support. They don’t know how to get through what they perceive as a crisis. So, they can react in a way that is called: “A permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

  12. Late Warning Signs: Act NOW! • Talking about suicide • Change in sleeping habits • Impulsive violent or rebellious actions • Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression • Giving away possessions • Making a last will/testament

  13. It’s time to ACT! • If you see any of these late warning signs, act immediately, especially if there are early warning signs or risk factors that you know of. • Don’t: • Try to diagnose the problem • Don’t • Worry that the student is manipulating you

  14. Myths and Misperceptions • Myth: Asking about suicide will give them ideas • In fact, you will be offering to help • Myth: They won’t tell the truth • In fact, no one really wants to die • Myth: If they don’t do it now, they’ll just do it later or find another way. • Suicide is not a destiny: 90% of people who attempt but do not complete suicide never complete suicide at a later date!

  15. What else do you need to know? • Suicide doesn’t just happen out of the blue • 90% had a mental illness or drug/alcohol abuse • In youth, suicide is often an impulsive response to a perceived crisis • Firearms are used in more than half of youth suicides—safe storage is critical Usually, depression + crisis + gun => attempt

  16. It might look something like this: • You notice risk factors like depression, or exposure to suicide...and • the student has become isolated or angry…and • they hint about or mention suicide as a solution to their problems… • It’s time to ACT! Right away! Don’t leave the student alone. Get them to the crisis team.

  17. Hints about suicide sound like: • “I’d like to take a permanent nap.” • “I’m going to disconnect my brain.” • “I never want to wake up again.” • “I wish I were dead.” • Others? What have you heard that concerned you?

  18. How do you ACT? • A is for “Acknowledge” signs and symptoms • C is showing “Care and Concern” • T is “Telling” a member of your crisis team who knows how to respond • ACT is the main skill taught in the Signs of Suicide program from Screening for Mental Health

  19. A is Acknowledge • “That sounds really hard, I’m so sorry to hear this.” • “You have some major challenges in your life right now.” • Avoid minimizing their feelings by saying: • “You’ll get over this.” • “Time heals all wounds.” • “Stop worrying so much—it’s no biggie.” • You don’t even need to ask questions!

  20. C is Care and Concern • “I would hate for anything bad to happen to you.” • “I don’t want this to get any worse.” • “I really want to be sure you get some help.” • “You’re an important part of my class and I want to be sure you stay safe.”

  21. T is Tell a Member of Your Crisis Team • “I know Ms. Sandhaus in the Student Services office, and she works with a lot of students who face challenges like this. Let’s go see her together.” • Find out who you can talk with in your school—know where they work and how to reach them. • Take the student to see one of these people right away, even if you’re not sure it’s a crisis. • Any of the counselors, administrators, nurse or SRO are on our crisis response team.

  22. From the KS Department of Health • If a student hints about suicide, consider these steps: • LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. • Don’t promise to keep their comments of suicide a secret. • Express your concern regarding the student’s safety with the student. • Do not leave the student unattended… • Contact the student’s parents or guardian immediately. • Refer the student to a mental health professional or medical doctor.

  23. Remember • All you need to do to stop youth suicide is: • ACT • Acknowledge feelings • show Care and Concern (don’t minimize) • Tell a member of your crisis team • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is always available at (800) 273-TALK (8255)

  24. Want More Information? • Check out the Suicide Prevention Resource Center at • Suicide prevention at • Locally Johnson County Mental Health Center 913-831-2550 John Stone, Becky Sandhaus, Laurie Matson-Ritter, Diane Hinton, Dan Meara, Jan Sidelnik and Emily Dorothy