A recent report shows, for the first time, suicide rates for Unites States middle school students have surpassed the rate of death by car crashes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate among teens has been steadily rising, and has doubled in the U.S. from 2007 to 2014.
Schools throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania have been increasing their efforts to include suicide prevention education to students along with preparing teachers to watch for warning signs of social and emotional distress and urge students to get help.
On June 26, 2014, Act 71 was signed into law in Pennsylvania. This law specifically requires school entities to: (1) adopt a youth suicide awareness and prevention policy; and (2) provide ongoing professional development in youth suicide awareness and prevention for professional educators in building serving students in grades 6-12. Additionally, the Act permits school entities to incorporate curriculum on this topic into their instructional programs pursuant to their youth suicide awareness and prevention polices.
In the Fall of 2015, students throughout Bucks County schools participated in the Pennsylvania Youth Survey (PAYS). This survey was a great way to gain insight on what is happening in many areas of the lives of students. It identified specific risk and protective factors that impact students’ behaviors. The PAYS survey was anonymous and confidential. Data from the survey provided insight on students’ perceptions on issues related to Mental Health & Suicide. The PAYS included questions specific to suicide, measuring depressed behavior, suicidal intention, actual suicide attempts and the seriousness of those attempts (by asking about requiring medical intervention).
The most common depressed thought was “at times I am no good at all”., reported by 31% of the students in Bucks County. 33.8% of students reported they felt sad or depressed MOST days in the past 12 months. Overall, 13.2% of students had seriously considered attempting suicide, compared to 16% of students at the state level. To view the comprehensive report of the 2015PAYS go to: http://www.pccd.pa.gov/Juvenile-Justice/Pages/PAYS-for-2015---County-Reports.aspx
Suicidal thoughts are common. Yet, suicidal acts, threats and attempts are less common, but more frequent than most people realize. Suicide is very complex and difficult to understand. Suicidal people are just like you and me. They have problems; we have problems. The difference between us is that, for a moment, we feel we can handle our problem and do not feel overwhelmed by them. It has often been said, “suicide is a permeant solution, to a temporary problem”.
If you are concerned with someone, do not hesitate; get involved. Research tells us that confronting a person does not increase the risk of suicide, but rather asking someone directly about suicidal intent lowers anxiety, opens up communication and lowers the risk of an impulsive act. Persuading someone not to end his or her life to get help begins with the simple act of listening. Listening can be lifesaving. Once you listen to the individual’s concerns, refer them to a qualified health professional for further treatment or support.
Do not be afraid to get involved, YOU may be the difference in helping to save a life.
2015 Pennsylvania Youth Survey, Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency. Pennsylvania Profile Report. Bucks County Profile Report.
Suggestions for question, persuade and refer taken from the QPR Institute, Ask a Question, Save a Life. www.qprinstitute.com