Parent and Student Empowerment held its first informational lecture of the year at Rio Norte Junior High, where nearly 100 parents and students attended a discussion called “Every Life Matters: Preventing Suicide in Teens and Children.”
The William S. Hart Union High School District’s PASE program focused on tackling the stigmas associated with suicide and depression Thursday as it hosted pediatrician Dr. Susan Igdaloff and Dawnel DeRubeis, coordinator for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the More than Sad Program, for one of four lectures that will occur this school year.
During the presentation, Igdaloff provided a myriad of facts about suicide, including its risk factors, how it affects youth and the staggering statistics that show it’s a potential problem for more children than you might think.
Suicide can happen in many different ways, such as poisoning, strangulation or the use of firearms, Igdaloff said. “Suicide is not a crime.”
“Criminals commit crimes, so we need to remove the term ‘committed suicide’ from our vocabularies,” she said. “It’s inaccurate. It’s insensitive and it contributes to the continuing stigma that exists around suicide.”
Abuse, biological factors and access to the means to complete the action are all risk factors connected to teen suicide, but there is no typical suicide victim, she said to attendees.
In fact, suicide is done impulsively, Igdaloff said. “In most cases, the primarily goal of suicide is not a desire to end one’s life or to hurt oneself, but actually a desire to end unbearable pain and at that particular moment, dying may seem like the only way out.”
Many who attempt suicide want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong or they may be trying to escape from a situation that is impossible to deal with, Igdaloff said.
Depression is the most common mental health diagnosis associated with suicide, and people who have experienced abuse in their past are seven times more likely to attempt suicide in their life than if not.
While there are many reasons for the increase, it’s important for parents to be aware that teen suicide is soaring, said Igdaloff, a mother who has personal experiences dealing with suicide.
There’s one death from suicide every 1 hour, 40 minutes, and 5,000 children in grades seven through 12 attempt suicide times every day, Igdaloff said.
Back in the 1990s, firearms were the primary method that students used for suicide, but in recent years, suffocation has become more prevalent, according to the PowerPoint lecture. Access to means is the biggest contributor to suicide-attempt outcomes, as 85 percent of firearms suicide attempts are completed and less than 1 percent of people who attempted suicide using a gun or suffocation lived.
“These are highly lethal methods,” Igdaloff said, citing the importance of gun safety. “If you think your child is at risk, you need to do what you can to protect your child’s life.”
DeRubeis said it’s possible to do this by providing something as simple as positive affirmation on a daily basis with statements like, “I am enough. I am unique, and it’s OK to not be OK.”
She implored children in the audience to go home and write a list of their best features — physically, mentally and socially — so they will always have something to remind themselves how amazing they are when times are hard.
DeRubeis also instructed students to be active, eat well and sleep a recommended nine hours a night.
“Find some activity that you love because it allows your brain to release endorphins, which allows us to get rid of stress,” she told children.
“It’s OK to ask for help. That’s what these resources are here for,” she said. “So please, I beg of you to use them.”
If parents have any topics of interest that they feel should be discussed at a PASE meeting, Kathy Hunter, the Hart District’s director of student services, said to contact her at the email listed on the district website or by phone at the district office.