Studies show most schools tend to respond to a suicidal crisis in an unorganized fashion and a contributing factor for this is the lack of an established plan of action.
“The school should be a resource for the family,” said Aurora Family Counseling Center CEO Brian Bauduin. “We should develop a crisis plan. During 9-11 Rudy Giuliani told everyone what needed to happen. It went smoothly because he had a crisis plan that was developed years before. We should do the same.”
Bauduin hopes to develop a suicide crisis network with counseling and mental health agencies and center that network around the schools.
“It’s good that agencies like you are here because there is no mental health facility here,” said Alcohol and Drug Services’ Brenda David.
During a workshop hosted by First United Methodist Church in Rockingham, Bauduin discussed suicide in adolescents, risk factors, warning signs, responses and statistics.
He said adolescents that have attempted suicide before are more likely to attempt it again. Researchers have found that people with a family history of suicide are predisposed as well. Depression has been proven to be hereditary.
“Depression in kids is more troublesome than depression in adults because their coping skills haven’t developed,” said Bauduin. “They don’t know how to get help or who to talk to.”
Often they will find some other way to deal with their stress. Teens who abuse substances to numb their pain learn this as their coping mechanism, and later have problems dealing with stress as adults. Explosive or impulsive teens are at high risk, especially with access to firearms.
“A lot of time, we know kids, if they say it, they’ll do it,” said Bauduin. He recalled a case from his 30 years as a counselor where a teenage boy was having a difficult time coping with depression and a recent break-up. His brother took him hunting to distract him, and in the car the teen talked about wanting to end his life.
“Why don’t you just go ahead and do it then,” said the brother. And the teen took his life then and there with a shotgun.
“Can you imagine the brother having to live with that?” said Bauduin.
Bauduin said we must all realize that adolescence is a difficult time, and the stress can be overwhelming, and is not to be overlooked. He said teens that are finding their sexual orientation often have a hard time dealing with confusion, experimentation and homosexuality.
“That is not something you choose,” said Bauduin. “Why would you choose to go towards all the negativity you’d receive? That’s a discussion for another workshop, but it is biological. It’s a sexual preference they discover. A lot of these kids are bullied. They’ll come to school and do violent things to others or internalize it and eventually kill themselves.”
Bauduin said there is little discrepancy between cultures as far as suicide numbers are concerned, however Native Americans have the highest suicide rates.
Family cohesion is another important factor in protecting children from wishing to end their life.
“Often the child didn’t feel like part of the family,” he said. “So get your kids involved.”
Academic achievement can be an indication of how motivated a teenager is.
“It’s what I call horsepower, it’s the motivation to do well,” said Bauduin.
There are numerous risk factors for suicide, any one of which may be present or absent in an adolescent at risk for suicide. Being able to recognize these clues and knowing the risk factors associated with adolescent suicide may help school staff prevent such a crisis from happening.
Only after a student has been identified as at risk can he or she get help and intervention, which is of paramount importance for preventing a student from attempting or dying by suicide.
Risk factors include: previous suicide attempt or gesture; feelings of hopelessness or isolation; mood disorders; substance abuse; family history; life stresses and legal or disciplinary problems; physical or sexual abuse; access to firearms; conduct disorders; delinquency; living alone or runaways; imitation; and chronic physical illness.
Protective factors: family cohesion; good coping skills; academic achievement; perceived connectedness to school; good relationships with others; help-seeking/advice seeking; problem solving abilities; sense of worth or confidence; stable environment; responsibilities for others or pets.
Early warning signs: withdrawal from friends and family, preoccupation with death (poems, writing, pictures), marked personality change and serious mood changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulty in school, change in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions such as stomachaches, headaches or fatigue, persistent boredom, loss of interest.
Late warning signs: Actually talking about suicide or a plan, exhibiting impulsivity such as violent actions, refusing help or feeling ‘beyond help,’ complaining of being a bad person or feeling ‘rotten inside,’ making statements about hopelessness, helplessness or worthlessness, not tolerating praise or rewards, giving verbal hints with statements such as “I won’t be a problem for you much longer” or “Nothing matters, it’s no use” and “I won’t see you again,” becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression - this may mean that the student has already made the decision to escape all problems by ending his/her life, giving away favorite possessions, making a last will and testament, saying other things like “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I were dead,” or “I shouldn’t have been born.”
If you are concerned about someone and you think they may take their own life, call the Aurora Family Counseling Center in Rockingham at (910) 817-9700 or call Connections Family Support Program at (910) 627-1769 or toll free at 1-877-211-5995. Suicide should never be the answer to any problem. There is help available.
Staff Writer Dawn Kurry can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ex. 43, or by e-mail at email@example.com.