A COMPREHENSIVE POLICY FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION, INTERVENTION, AND POSTVENTION: The Granada Hills Charter Governing Board recognizes that access to school based mental health services and supports directly improves students physical and psychological safety; enhances academic and cognitive performance; and support learning as well as social and emotional development. The Governing Board recognizes that suicide is a major cause of death among youth and that all suicide threats must be taken seriously. The Executive Director or designee shall establish procedures to be followed when a suicide attempt, threat or disclosure is reported. The school shall also provide students, parents/guardians and staff with education that helps them recognize the warning signs of severe emotional distress and take preventive measures to help potentially suicidal students. A copy of the GHC comprehensive policy is available on the School’s website.
Suicide Prevention: What Parents Need to Know
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in young people 12 – 18, and among college-age youth. More teens and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. Youth suicide is one of the most frightening topics for parents and educators. However, it must be addressed: Suicide is preventable! The more we know about it, the better prepared we are to respond to an existential mental health crisis in a young person’s life. The ensure the safety of our students, the GHC Board Policy requires a readmittance conference in the Health Office when students are absent due to a psychiatric illness or emergency. Students will not be permitted to return to school without the re-admit conference.
Four out of five completed suicides give clear warning signs of their intentions. If we learn the signs and know how to respond, we may be able to help 80% of the teens who are contemplating suicide.
Many times, signs of concern mimic “typical teenage behaviors”. So, how can we know if it’s just “being a teenager” or something more? If the signs are persisting over a period of time, several of the signs appear at the same time, and the behavior is out of character for the young person as you know him/her, then close attention is warranted.
Below are some statements you may hear and some signs you may observe. Anytime you have a concern about a young person’s actions and/or behaviors, be proactive. Talk with your child. Ask questions. If necessary, seek professional help. The professionals at GHC will be able to help with resources.
Suicide Threats: Direct and Indirect Statements
People, who talk about suicide, threaten suicide or call suicide crisis lines are about 30 times more likely to kill themselves than those who don’t. Take suicide threats seriously.
- “I’d be better off dead.”
- “I won’t be bothering you much longer.”
- ”You’ll be better off without me around.”
- “I hate my life.”
- “I am going to kill myself.”
Suicide threats are not always expressed verbally. They can turn up in assignments, on essay tests, in artwork, or poems. Furthermore, they are common in text messages and on social networks.
- Sudden, abrupt changes in personality
- Expressions of hopelessness and despair
- Declining grades and school performance
- Lack of interest in activities once enjoyed
- Increased irritability and aggressiveness
- Withdrawal from family, friends and relationships
- Decline in hygiene and grooming
- Changes in eating and sleeping habits
- Experiencing a recent loss (death of a loved one; relationship break-up; failing grades)
- Increased use or abuse of alcohol or drugs
- Recent separation or divorce of parents
- Feelings of loneliness or abandonment
- Feelings of shame, guilt, humiliation or rejection
- Increased physical complaints, such as head-aches, stomach-aches, loss of energy, etc.
- Taking excessive risks, being reckless
- In real or serious trouble, especially for the first time
- Problems staying focused or paying attention
Previous Suicide Attempts
One out of three suicide deaths is not the individual’s first attempt.
- The risk for completing suicide is more than 100 times greater during the first year after an attempt.
- Take any instance of deliberate self-harm seriously.
Once the decision of suicide has been made, some young people begin making final arrangements.
- Giving away prized or favorite possessions
- Putting their affairs in order
- Saying good-bye to family and friends
- Making funeral arrangements
- This is not an all-inclusive list of signs of concern. Anytime you notice behaviors that concern you, ask questions and seek professional help.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from stressful situations, difficult circumstances, and setbacks. According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), resilience results from a number of protective factors in the lives of young people. These are some of the ingredients that help build resilient teenagers:
- Caring and nurturing family relationships and open communication
- Community support
- Positive peer relationships
- Religious and cultural beliefs that discourage suicide
- Solid problem solving and conflict resolution skills
- Good health and access to health care
- Access to mental health and substance abuse services
- No access to guns and other means of suicide
Young people who struggle with their sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBT youth) are at significantly higher risk for suicide than their heterosexual counterparts who feel secure in their gender identity. LGBT youth don’t die by suicide because they are LGBT. They attempt and die by suicide because of rejecting families and communities and societal homophobia. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has published an 18-page guide for parents who want to raise their LGBT children into healthy adulthood.
Where Do I Seek Help?
As outlined, youth suicide is a common and complex problem. However, it is not as complicated to help a suicidal teen as it seems. All parents have the drive to protect and safeguard their children. Not everyone, however, has a big and supportive network of extended family, friends, and community. This is why it is so important to have access to professional help and resources. Here are the most important ones
- If you feel that your son or daughter is in imminent danger or has already attempted suicide, call 911.
- If your son or daughter needs immediate mental health assessment because of suicidal signs you recognize, call the 24-hour Access Line of the Department of Mental Health (800) 854-7771
- If you are worried about your son or daughter’s mental state during business hours, call Valley Coordinated Children’s Services and ask for an Officer of the Day. The therapist on duty will conduct a phone assessment of your child, will ask you additional questions, and advise you on how to proceed. (818) 708-4500.
- In case you are a member of Kaiser Permanente, you can call the 24-hour access line for help. Mental health specialists are standing by for assessment and immediate assistance (800) 900-327
- Contact the GHC Health Office or any GHC staff member if you believe your child is at risk.
You can find further helpful mental health resources on the Granada Hills website and in the GHC Suicide Prevention, Intervention and Postvention Policy available on the School’s website.