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Preventing Youth Suicide
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among school age youth. However, suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in the school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority-and are empowered to take the correct actions-we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.
Suicide Risk Factors
Although far from perfect predictors, certain characteristics are associated with increased odd of having suicidal thoughts. These include:
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.
- Family stress/dysfunction.
- Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home.
- Situational crises (e.g., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence).
Suicide Warning Signs
Most suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. These include:
- Suicidal threats in the form of direct (“I am going to kill myself”) and indirect (“I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again”) statements.
- Suicide notes and plans (including online postings).
- Prior suicidal behavior.
- Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions).
- Preoccupation with death.
- Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.
What to Do
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
- Remain calm.
- Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide (e.g., “Are you thinking of suicide?”).
- Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
- Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
- Do not judge.
- Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
- Remove means for self-harm.
Get help: No one should ever agree to keep a youth’s suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.
Know the Signs
San Diego County: It’s Up to Us – Resource for Parents
San Diego County Office of Education: Suicide Prevention
Student Support Resources
No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.
Health Insurance – Check the information on the back of your insurance card for directions to mental health services.
San Diego Access & Crisis Line: 888-724-7240
Behavioral Health Emergency Contact Police/Psychiatric Emergency Response Team (PERT): 9-1-1
Escondido Police Department: (760) 839-4722
The Trevor Project: 866-4-U-Trevor (488-73867)
Youth Crisis Line: 800-843-5200
General Resources: 2-1-1
North County Crisis Intervention and Response Team
225 W. Valley Parkway, Suite 100
Escondido, CA 92025
Hours: M-F 12-8 pm, Saturday 12-5 pm
Walk-In same day appointments to youth, ages 4-21, who are experiencing severe behavioral and/or emotional difficulties that may include co-occurring substance abuse disorders.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding EUHSD Suicide Prevention Policy and implementation, please contact:
EUHSD Director of Pupil Services & Interventions
302 North Midway Drive
Escondido, CA 92027