Sunset Ridge Middle School Procedures
So what happens when a student is reported as being suicidal?
1. The counselor will call the student into their office and assess their mood.
-Often students will deny they are thinking of self-harm.
2. Counselors are required by law to call the student’s parents/guardians.
3. In support of the student, they will be released to the parent.
This video is about the latest suicide statistics in Utah. Click on the link below to watch.
This information is taken from the book, Suicide In Schools: A Practitioner’s Guide to Multi-level Prevention, Assessment, Intervention, and Postvention
Written by: Terri A. Erbacher, Jonathan B. Singer, & Scott Poland.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs
We must first understand what puts a student at risk for suicide and what the warning signs are that an adolescent may be contemplating suicide. Many people confuse these two terms. Risk factors refer to an individual’s characteristics, circumstances, history, and experiences that raise the statistical risk for suicide. Warning signs are visible signs that a friend or loved one may show indicating that they may be in crisis and thinking about suicide. We can prevent suicide by learning to recognize the signs of someone at risk, taking those signs seriously, and knowing how to respond to them.
- Gender: Males are 4 times more likely to die by suicide than females (although females are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide)
- Age: People aged 45-60 years and over 80 years are at highest risk
- Race: Caucasians have the highest rates for all ages, followed by American Indians/Alaskan Natives
- Geography: Highest U.S. suicides rates are in the West; lowest rates are in the Northeast
- Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (particularly if there is conflict, harassment, bullying, rejection, or lack of support)
- Chronic medical illness, such as HIV, lupus, or traumatic brain injury
- Psychiatric disorders: About 90% of those who die by suicide have a diagnosable and treatable mental illness, such as depression or bipolar disorder; personality disorders, particularly borderline or antisocial, and conduct disorders.
- Anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Previous attempt: 20% of those who kill themselves previously attempted suicide
- Genetic predisposition: family history of mental illness or suicide
- Self-injurious behavior or self-destruction (e.g., cutting, eating disorders)
- Alcohol or drug dependence
- Impulsivity: Impulsive individuals are more likely to act on suicidal impulses
- Low self-concept/ esteem
- Seeking suicide means, such as guns, pills, etc.
- Hopelessness about the future getting better; feeling trapped
- Feeling helpless or worthless
- Trouble concentrating or thinking quickly, indecisiveness
- Preoccupation with suicide/death in music, comics, movies, books, etc.
- Internet researching of methods or watching suicide/ self-harm documentaries
- Increased hostility, agitation, defensiveness, anger, or rage (may be hostile if afraid you will uncover their suicide plan)
- Disinterest in making future plans (“I won’t be here this weekend anyway”)
- Euphoria, attitude becomes calm/ certain (as they now have a plan to end the pain)
- Anxiety, psychic pain, and inner tension
- Deterioration of self-care: neglect of personal appearance or cleanliness
- Decreased school attendance or academic performance
- Change in eating habits (weight loss/ gain)
- Change is sleeping routine
- Change in behavior or discipline
- Increased use of drugs, alcohol, sex
- Increased impulsiveness and taking unnecessary risks
- Feeling humiliated (e.g., problems with the law, recent psychiatric hospitalization)
- Isolation or lack of connectedness
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Childhood trauma or witnessing trauma
- Pressure to be a good student/ athlete/ child
- Access to alcohol or illicit drugs
- Easy access to lethal methods, especially guns
- Exposure to a suicide loss (e.g., contagion)
- Trouble with the law
- Poor familial communications or parent/ child discord
- Family stress/ dysfunction
- Romantic difficulties in older adolescents
- Risk-taking or being reckless
Suicide can be prevented. While some suicides occur without warning, 50%-75% of people who are suicidal give some warning of their intentions.
- Feelings of being a burden to others
- Lack of connection; withdrawing from friends and family
- Depressed, overwhelming sadness
- Loss of energy or extreme fatigue
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or sports
- No reason for living
- Discussing suicide in their writings
- Reference being dead, joking about it (referencing one’s own funeral)
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct and indirect statements
- Suicide notes and plans
- Self-defeating statements or expressing a wish to die (“I’d be better off dead”)
The presence of protective factors can lessen the potential of risk factors leading to STB. Protective factors are often the opposite of risk factors and can buffer the effects of risk. Students who possess multiple protective factors and are able to bounce back in the face of adversity are often said to have resiliency. Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to help the youth build social connections and other social and environmental supports.
Physiological/ Behavioral Health
- Positive self-esteem and emotional wellness
- Physical health
- Hope for the future
- Willingness to obtain and stay in treatment
- Easy access to effective mental health support/ care
- Cognitive flexibility (ability to integrate and think through new information )
- Internal locus of control (feeling as if one has the power to create change)
- Effective coping strategies
- Effective problem-solving skills in the face of conflict or adversity
- Cultural and religious beliefs that affirm life and discourage suicide
- Resilience and trust that things will get better
- General life satisfaction, sense of purpose
- Sense of connectedness: having social supports such as family, friends, teammates
- Having at least one caring adult to which a student can turn
- Feeling connected to school and feeling safe there
- Connections within the community such as strong spiritual or religious ties
- Restricted access to alcohol or illicit drugs
- Restricted access to suicide means, such as guns, medications, etc.