By Jasanee Killins
Counselors from the William Peace University Wellness Center came together online Sept. 10 to discuss the risks of suicide amongst American youth. Centered around World Suicide Prevention Day, the purpose of this event was to address the issues with youth suicides and what sorts of actions could be taken if a person one knows is suffering from those thoughts.
Information from the event mainly stemmed from its special guest, Amy Werner. Werner is a part of the Jason Foundation, an organization dedicated to educating others on youth suicides. The phenomena itself is often referred to as “The Silent Epidemic”.
“Suicide among young Americans is called [The Silent Epidemic] because of how unspoken of it is,” Werner said. “While not too many people address it, it is the second leading cause of death for those between the age of 10 to 24 years old, only topped by accidental deaths.”
According to statistics shared during the presentation, about one in three people within the youth age group experience depression. In addition, one in six have experienced suicidal thoughts, one in seven have made plans to do so and four out of five youths who attempt suicide have given clear signs of their troubles.
Young people who face higher risks at suicide either already have a diagnosis for depression and other mental illnesses, or those who show symptoms but go under the radar. Another demographic involves youth who face pressure for having demanding, perfectionist lifestyles, whether it is from academic, athletic or extracurricular stress.
“Others who are at high risk of committing suicide also include troubled LGBTQ+ and juvenile youths,” Werner said. “Victims of bullying and abuse within their households face elevated chances of committing suicide as well.”
With these possible circumstances considered, information on how to prevent such tragedies was shared.
The first step is to recognize radical changes in behavior. If someone no longer participates in activities they are passionate about, or completely disregards a proper eating or sleeping schedules, these could be strong signs of them experiencing depressive episodes. It is especially important to notice if the person at hand is explicitly doing this as a cry for help. Although one may assume they are only “seeking attention,” responding negatively or simply ignoring their actions can influence them to further neglect their health.
“Imagine if a friend who always takes care of their appearance starts being lazy or unattentive, that is when it is appropriate to check up on them,” Werner said. “The instance would be the same if someone you know who is usually very social and talkative decided to shut down completely. You need to recognize these signs ahead of time.”
While this addresses what one should look out for, the most significant part of this event focused on what one can do to prevent someone’s condition from escalating. One option is to have a plan in case a high risk, potentially dangerous situation occurs, specifically if someone is seriously considering or attempting to take their life.
Another solution is never keeping secrets. If a close loved one or fellow student confides their struggles and sufferings to oneself, do not sweep it under the cover. It may be for the sake of their privacy, but it is best to share this information with a trusted professional. Informing a therapist or a counselor on campus could lead to this individual receiving the help they need. Calling 911 while someone is attempting suicide works as well.
“It is possible to lose a friend from doing that, but it is better to lost them from informing someone who can help rather than losing them from suicide,” Werner said. “If they do share their thoughts and feelings with you, it’s both crucial that you listen and inform the right people for their sake. As their friend, your responsibility is to get them as much help as you can, not necessarily save them from themselves.”
Aside from organizations like the Jason Foundation, hotlines are essential resources for suicide prevention. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), HopeLine NC (919-231-4525), the TeenLine (310-855-4673), the line for Suicide.org (800-784-2433) and the TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ+ and Questioning Youth (1-866-488-7386) are optimal examples of where struggling youths can turn to when entering a crisis or considering a suicidal attempt. On top of this, an app produced by the Jason Foundation is designed to supply resources for those who seek help for their friends or themselves. The app in question, “A Friend Asks”, informs viewers on warning signs of suicidal contemplation, ways to assist others, where to give or get help and the do’s and don’ts of prevention.
From start to finish, the World Suicide Prevention Day event served as an introduction to the Silent Epidemic and how it can be quelled. Through providing various methods on the topic, Werner and the counselors of WPU presented this issue with the critical need for youth suicides to be acknowledged and averted.
Although a solid time has yet to be established, a possible spring event to further explore this issue was considered towards the end of the meeting.