As we continue our conversation on National Campus Safety Awareness Month (NCSAM), we shift our focus toward another important topic that’s also being recognized in September: National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.
The topic of suicide prevention has gained considerable attention among school communities in recent years and with good reason. With the rash of reports and news on school shootings and violence fresh on the minds of many, the topics of mental health, intervention and prevention are—and should be—front and center of this conversation.
Suicide is a Leading Cause of Death in the United States
Here are some suicide statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (Source: 2014 data)
- Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 34.
- Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death overall in the United States, claiming nearly 45,000 lives.
- There were more than twice as many suicides (44,965) as there were homicides (19,362) in the United States.
Suicide is preventable, though often most fail to seek help or treatment due to the inherent stigma that still remains around mental health.
It’s crucial that this topic is addressed by school leaders and enforced by the campus community. Having an open and honest stance on mental health and suicide prevention is the first step in removing this stigma around the conversation.
Communicate the available resources you have—counseling, prevention and similar support—and make it clear that your campus community is a safe space for those struggling with mental health issues. If someone needs help, they should know where to go and feel confident in doing so.
This is especially true for younger students who may have a hard time dealing with these emotions and feelings—as highlighted in the National Council for Behavioral Health public safety announcement “Said No Teen Ever.”
School leadership should lay the framework so students in need know where to go and how to get there. In addition, the parents of younger students should also be considered and provided with the right resources should they need them.
A great way to raise awareness and remove potential stigma around mental health is to support efforts such as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month among your own campus communities.
Build content around mental health and suicide prevention into your communications with faculty, students and staff. Reach out to those affected by suicide, raise awareness and help connect individuals who have suicidal thoughts with treatment services.
School leaders in search of awareness campaigns and additional educational and promotional resources can look toward outlets such as:
- American Association of Suicidology: National Suicide Prevention Week
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: National Suicide Prevention Week
- International Association for Suicide Prevention: World Suicide Prevention Day
- National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: #BeThere
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
- National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide Prevention Resources for Native Populations
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Promote National Suicide Prevention Month
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center: Suicide Prevention Month: Ideas for Action
For schools looking to implement more formal language into their own programs and policies, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers its Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, which provides educators and school administrators a comprehensive way to implement suicide prevention policies in their local community.
If you have questions regarding your school’s suicide prevention efforts or if you would like additional resources, please don’t hesitate to contact me.