It’s not just your imagination. Teen suicide rates are rising at alarming rates. The suicide rate for white children and teens between 10 and 17 was up 70% between 2006 and 2016, the latest data analysis available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although black children and teens kill themselves less often than white youth do, the rate of increase was higher — 77%. Just recently in California, four students who attended Rancho Cucamonga school districts — a 10-year-old boy, a 15-year-old girl, a 16-year-old girl and a 16-year-old boy — died by suicide in one week alone.
This is unacceptable and something needs to change. Schools, parents, communities and teens must take an active role in helping to stop this from happening to more families.
The response in Rancho Cucamonga has been incredible and appropriate. Therapists were deployed to each school to assist grieving students and staff. A total of 18 marriage and family therapists, 54 counselors, 27 psychologists and five psychotherapists are available to students across the district’s 12 schools.
Furthermore, they have committed to expanding partnerships with mental health providers, increasing programming around the topic of suicide, and including suicide education and prevention in the curriculum.
This is great news, and this is what every single school in our nation needs to do. And they need to do it now. Offering services as a response to a tragedy is a great way to try and prevent more tragedies, but let’s face it, other schools can’t afford to wait.
They need task forces to do their jobs and help prevent teen suicide so that not another single family ever has to experience losing their child to suicide.
Teens today have to deal with so much pressure. Schools and colleges are far more competitive than ever before, putting undo stress on our youth. Kids are taking too many AP and otherwise difficult classes all at once in an effort to get into the best schools.
They are spending so much time preparing for SATs and ACTs and volunteering and taking music lessons and doing extracurriculars, all for the purpose of submitting the “perfect application” to college.
In doing so, though, teens aren’t getting to be teens.
Teens are supposed to be able to balance school with social lives and interests, learning more about who they are and figuring out what kinds of person they want to be. When their every move is being scrutinized on social media, when not an ounce of privacy or respect for personal boundaries exists any longer, and when bullying is easier and more prevalent than ever, the stress becomes insurmountable.
And for many, suicide appears to be the only way out. It is not;
suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Parents, you must take action and become part of the solution. Lighten up and stop putting so much pressure on your teen to be perfect. Let your teen be a teen. Be supportive. Make sure your teen knows they can come to you with ANY issue.
Teach your children to use social media appropriately, and monitor it regularly. Don’t let your child be a bully. Teach them kindness and compassion, and to reach out to someone who might need a friend. Let them know to speak up when they have a problem or when they believe someone else is having trouble or struggling.
Urge your schools to do more with programming and educating both staff and students about suicide prevention. Demand they provide students with the resources to get the help they need when they need it.
When teens feel they don’t have a safe place to reach out to someone and confide in them, their pain and desperation can be lethal. And remember, if someone tells you that they are thinking about killing themselves, always believe them and try to get help.
When you or your teen see someone posting a threat or a farewell message on social media, don’t ignore that. It is a cry for help and/or a way of letting others know they have a plan.
Don’t sit quietly and watch them succeed in carrying out that plan. Band together as a community of parents, friends, students and neighbors, and help each other through the difficult teenage years. Make ending teen suicide a priority and a reality. You and your teens must band together and become a strong and powerful force in this effort. Together, you can make a difference.
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