As parents and neighbors, we hear the news of Stark County youth dying by suicide and we grieve. We grieve and we wonder – what led these youth to this? Could it have been stopped? What is to prevent it from happening again? In times likes these, emotions run high and answers seem few.
On a daily basis, mental health and prevention professionals are working across the county providing school-based services to students including counseling services, support and resources. As immediate needs arise, a specialized team of StarkMHAR’s Care Network mental health professionals are deployed as requested by school districts. We continue to be on standby.
As we comfort our neighbors and tend to the young people in our life, I want you to know that no one is ever alone. Help is available.
Community Efforts This recent cluster of deaths by suicide is what clinicians call “suicide contagion.” As defined by HHS.gov, suicide contagion is “the exposure to suicide or suicidal behaviors within one’s family, one’s peer group, or through media reports of suicide and can result in an increase in suicide and suicidal behaviors.”1
At the beginning of February, national suicide contagion experts Maureen Underwood and Phyllis Alongi from the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide came to Stark County from New Jersey. They spoke with community stakeholders, school officials and service providers. In addition to bringing in help, StarkMHAR has compiled a webpage of youth prevention resources at StarkMHAR.org/YouthSuicidePrevention. StarkMHAR staff have also been collaborating with school districts to outline best practice and to provide self-care strategies for educators and first responders impacted by these tragedies.
Warning Signs Each year in the United States, people of all ages complete suicide. Approximately 80% have given warning signs to their families, friends and neighbors. Here are a few warning signs for parents and educators. Remember, begin a conversation. It is a myth that talking about suicide makes someone consider suicide.
- Talking or writing about suicide
- Giving away belongings
- Withdrawing from loved ones and activities
- Feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless
- Seeking ways to suicide, such as guns or pills
- Major eating or sleeping changes
- Increasing use of alcohol or other drugs
- Losing interest in things previously enjoyed
So, what can you do to promote youth suicide prevention? Talk with your loved ones about this issue. Talking is one of the simplest ways to keep hope alive. Talking reduces stigma and helps others know they are not alone. Talking points and more resources for parents, youth and young people are available at StarkMHAR.org/YouthSuicidePrevention as well as at the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide http://www.sptsusa.org/.
If you or a family member are in crisis, please call the Crisis Hotline anytime at 330-452-6000 or text 4hope to 741 741.