Part II Suicide awareness and prevention
At the recent Emery School District parent meeting four topics were discussed. The topic in last week's paper dealt with drugs in Emery County.
The topic this week is suicide awareness and prevention. Gwen Callahan, from the Emery School District said her son works at the hospital and he said on any given weekend, it's not unusual to see six suicide attempts come into the emergency room at Castleview Hospital in Price.
The following are statistics for youth 15-19 in Utah for 2011. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth aged 15-19 in Utah. Nineteen students died by suicide in 2011. The number of Utah students that have felt sad or hopeless for an extended period of time was 43,550 in 2011. This is 26.52 percent of students. Twelve percent of Utah students made a plan for suicide. Seven percent of students attempted suicide. More than 300 youth received medical assistance for attempted suicide.
Parents were asked to watch for warning signals in youth. These behaviors are often cries for help and invitations to intervene. Warning signs may include; changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and feelings. Sad, depressed, cranky, hate everything attitude, life is so unfair attitude. The youth or older person will talk about feeling hopeless with no reason to live, saying, "I'm not worth anything," or "I can't do anything right."
Sometimes a person will sleep too little, or too much; no energy, overeating or not eating, withdrawing and isolation.
Displaying extreme mood swings. Showing rage or speaking about seeking revenge. Repeated contact from school concerning behavior problems or truancy from school.
The student may get in trouble with the law including stealing, fighting, vandalism. The student may get involved with drugs or alcohol.
The student may threaten suicide either in direct or non-direct ways.
They may get online and search for ways to commit suicide or buy a gun. They may write suicide notes and have a preoccupation with death. They may write notes. They may attempt suicide.
A video was shown to the audience showing different people affected by having someone close to them commit suicide. One common thread among them was wishing they would have said or done something and asked the person straight out what was wrong and not be worried about offending them. Asking someone if they are contemplating suicide, does not drive them to suicide. They want someone to ask, they want someone to care. Take someone who threatens suicide very seriously. Ask how you can help. Parents and teachers may spot warning signs. Don't be afraid to say and do something.
You can tell when a child is struggling. Get to the bottom of it and ask questions. Refer students to a counselor. Thirty-two thousand students each year nationwide commit suicide. Watch for decreased interest in school, sports or life in general. Watch for students who isolate themselves.
Another thing teachers can watch for is depressed writing assignments from students that deal with dark topics or death. Subjects dealing with hate and anger can often be a concern. Teachers can observe students behavior. Students who are suffering from depression often physically change and retreat. Depression can be treated and there is medicine and help available. Watch for mood swings which could also be a sign of bipolar when there are excessive highs and lows. Watch for students that are perfectionists and are too hard on themselves. Students can worry, have trouble sleeping, wake up too early, have trouble concentrating and can feel tense.
These are all warning signs. Watch for signs of drug and alcohol abuse which may be used to try to cope with depression and other symptoms. Alcohol and drugs can lead students to have decreased control which may lead to a suicide attempt. Depressed suicidal teenagers may also act out and become physically aggressive. Teachers should watch for students who may be borderline disrespectful with their speaking tones. Family history of suicide, bullying, gay students, all may be considered risk factors.
It may be teenage behavior or it may be something more serious, but find out, don't let things go. Intervene, get the child some help. Get the child some therapy.
Suicide is 100 percent preventable. In the Emery County area there is Four Corners Behavioral Health that can help with counseling even if the student isn't able to pay. They have therapists and also offer free drug and alcohol classes. Mental illness is an illness the same as anything else and there are resources available to help anyone who is struggling.
Parents are encouraged to know the warning signs of suicide. Be ready to listen without judging. Be ready for the expression of intense feelings. Try to understand the reasons why someone is considering suicide without taking a position about whether or not such behavior is justified. Supervise constantly do not leave your child alone if there has been a suicide threat. Remove all guns, knives, pills, ropes and anything that could be used in a suicide attempt. Take action and get your child professional help. Help can be found at a suicide prevention center, medical center, sheriff's office, hospital, clergy and religious leaders. Be aware of support services at school including counselors, school nurse and school social worker.
The National Suicide Prevention lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK.
The local sheriff's office number is 435-381-2431. The Emery Medical Center number is 435-381-2305. The Green River Medical Center number is 435-564-3434. Four Corners number is 435-381-2432.
Don't be afraid to contact any one of these agencies if you need help.
Resources are available to help in these situations.