Dear Future President:
Suicide. Did I get your attention? This word rarely fails to gain one's attention. However, schools have yet still managed to repress the matter to the point where suicide in teens is at a record high (Tavernise, 1). The rising concern has left schools at crossroads searching for a better solution. Nonetheless, the answer stands right in front of them. Rather than stigmatizing the issue and anticipating it will go away, schools should be required that teachers, administrators, and students receive training on how to prevent suicide and an understanding on the issue.
Nearly all schools do next to nothing to address suicide within our nation's youth. If this is carried forward, misconceptions about suicide will continue to develop. To exemplify, one of the most widespread misconceptions is that people who talk about suicide won't go through with it. Studies have shown, 75% of people who commit suicide have given some clue or warning (The Samaritans, 6). Any suicidal talk or behavior should be treated seriously. It's not just an indication that the person is considering suicide. It's a cry for help. Pursuing this further, another myth is that talking about suicide may give one the idea. This is the principle rationale why schools choose to not include in school curriculum a suicide prevention program. One doesn't give a suicidal person morbid ideas by talking about suicide. Introducing the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is more than less beneficial. Asking someone if they are suicidal will never give them the idea if they have not thought about it already. Case in point, effective intervention requires recognizing these misconceptions and understanding the facts.
The generation we live in is one where the media and the public have romanticized suicide. It's the uncomfortable truth. Suicide is very real and ruins lives. Those are the facts. Nobody can dispute those. However, misleading preconceptions and an insufficiency of education on suicide, have led people to idealize suicide. Suicide is not art or beautiful. Suicide is wanting to close your eyes and never open them again. Staring blankly at a wall, sobbing, because no one knows how unhappy you are. Waking up bent over and throwing up from overdosing, disappointed your still alive. Being ready to pack up and leave this place and the memories that linger in the meaningless routine that is draining your soul away. The romantic relationship the media has with suicide is dangerously tragic and requires immediate attention.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teens (Office of the Indiana Attorney General, 2). It's nauseating to even think how many schools are misinformed and unaware of an issue that lies so close to the students they interact with each day. More teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, birth defects, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and lung disease, combined (Office of the Indiana Attorney General, 2). Nearly 43,000 Americans die by suicide every year (AFSP, 2). However, there is one suicide for every 25 suicide attempts (AFSP, 2). On average, there are 117 suicides per day in the United States (AFSP, 3). That means every 12.3 minutes there is a death by suicide. The numbers in each statistic that I presented to you are numbers that are not made up. Each number represents an actual human being, just like you and I, who has felt so alone, stressed, confused, misunderstood, or depressed that suicide became their only escape. The issue is very much real and should be acknowledged by school boards, educators, and districts all over.
So, where do we start? For one, we can avoid rushing into the issue without the proper knowledge and instead take the appropriate steps to make this change. This would begin with a turnaround in mentality. It's all too often that parents, educators, and even some students, find the subject of suicide inappropriate or conflicting for conversation in a learning environment. An easy fix could be involving not just educators, but parents and students, in the education of suicide prevention. This would put things in a perspective that would help them see the reason for this need. Following this, guidance from not only educators and school leaders, but mental health professionals, should be at hand for addressing suicidal thoughts or actions. Psychologists and councilors are an essence crucial to putting a new policy into practice. Twenty-seven states in the U.S. currently require that administrators attend workshops to prevent suicide (AFSP, 5). The reality is that number should be fifty. A new approach to the matter can complement state law requirements and help schools improve suicide prevention efforts.
However, the effectiveness of these programs has been questioned by some, sparking controversy and debate. Those say that there has been no apparent drop in suicide rates in teens. Some even say these programs defeat their purpose and normalize suicidal behavior (Global Education Magazine; Anna Barchetti Durisch, 19). Yet, this is not the case. The only reason why there has been no visible drop in suicide rates is because these programs are not widespread enough for there to be one. Once more schools implement a suicide prevention plan, then we will start to see a change. But until then, suicide rates are going to stay relatively level to their before state. Saying that these programs normalize suicide is absurd. Suicidal thoughts don’t just happen because someone brought up the subject. Raising the question of suicide without shock or disapproval provides the opportunity for communication. Doing this can be the first step in helping them choose to live.
Ultimately, schools can be the difference in preventing suicide. But to do so, they must be willing to fight the silence that all too often prevents students from seeking the assistance they need. Since suicide is being misinterpreted and romanticized and suicide in teens is at a new high, school based programs should be conducted nationwide to improve mental and emotional health and knowledge on suicide. The stigma and shame attached to suicide means that we do not usually share with others about the suicides we have been close to, or about our own attempts. Coming from an at-one-time suicidal teen herself, I know exactly what it feels like to be tired but still living, hurt but won't show it, screaming but is silent, and in pain but still smiling. Suicide must not go unnoticed.