Mental health issues, especially suicide, are often taboo subjects and can stigmatize those in greatest need of support. As educators, we can do more to open up the discussion about mental health issues and suicide prevention—or face the dire consequences of a continuing suicide epidemic among children, teens, and youth.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. With the back-to-school season upon us, this presents an ideal opportunity to focus on wellness and suicide prevention for K12 and college students.
The Rising Tide of Mental Illness and Suicide Among Children and Teens
It’s no secret that the rate of child and teen suicide has risen over the years, and the numbers of children who suffer are staggering:
- Nearly one in three (31%) young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 experienced a mental, behavioral, or emotional health issue in the past year (SAMHSA, 2021).
- 27% of teens ages 12-17 have one or more mental, emotional, developmental, or behavioral problems
- 37% of high school students reported feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year. This percentage is higher for females (46.6%), Hispanic students (40.0%), and lesbian, gay, or bisexual students (66.3%) (CDC, 2020).
- Among college students, 29% have been diagnosed with anxiety and 24% have been diagnosed with depression (NCHA, 2021).
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people aged 10–14 and the third leading cause of death among those aged 15-24 in the U.S. (NIMH)
Considering what’s at stake, creating awareness is a critical first step in addressing the severity of the problem.
Why is Awareness of Suicide Prevention So Important?
The simple answer is that awareness can change the dynamics of suicide prevention. Consider that 80% of teens who die by suicide show warning signs, and 90% of teens who die by suicide have a mental health condition. Believe it or not, this can give us hope. Learning how to detect warning signs gives us a better chance of reaching students before they hit a crisis point. Rather than thinking a child is just “going through a phase” or a teenager is being moody, awareness teaches us to look deeper.
Understanding the factors and warning signs, coupled with access to treatment, will help students get the attention needed to get help and avert potential disasters. Well-designed suicide prevention programs can empower educators and parents alike to be more proactive in anti-suicide efforts. In recognizing the problem, we can take the next steps—turning to the many organizations, resources, and tools that can help us monitor children who are at risk, prevent escalation, create safe communities free from stigma, and ensure better access to resources, especially among vulnerable populations.
Providing Tools and Resources to Help Prevent Suicide
With educational tools, awareness programs, and accessible resources in place, we can help students at all levels get the help and support they need. If you would like more information and resources—whether for a crisis situation or non-life threatening situation—to help your children, students, or others in your community, below are valuable resources to call upon.
All of the resources listed below are out there but they are scattered across geographies and the internet. STOPit brings many of them together in one place that can be easily accessed using a smartphone. To learn more about STOPit’s HelpMe app, download the ebook below.
40 Ways to Get Help and Information
24/7 Crisis Lines
- 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: 988 or online at 988lifeline.org provides free, 24/7, confidential support (formerly known as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).
- Boystown National Hotline: Call 800-448-3000 or TTY 800-448-3000 for crisis and support line for children, youth and their parents, 24/7, Spanish available.
- Childhelp (1.800.4ACHILD): This 24/7 anonymous, confidential provides assistance in 170 languages to adults, children, and youth regarding child abuse.
Crisis Text Line: Text HOME to 741741 to connect with counselors 24/7/365.
- Hopeline Suicide Crisis Hotline: Call 1-800-SUICIDE for a 24-hour National Suicide Crisis Hotline that automatically directs the call to the nearest crisis center.
National Runaway Safeline (1.800.RUNAWAY): This is a 24/7 crisis line for youth thinking about running away, for youth already on the run, and adults worried about a runaway.
- Teen Lifeline: Call (24/7/365) or Text 1-800-248-8336 (weekdays 12-9pm and weekends), for crisis support or peer counseling (3-9pm daily).
- Brother, You’re on My Mind: The website offers a free Tool Kit, crisis resources sheet, and other educational materials to promote mental health among African American men.
- Preventing Suicide: a Toolkit for High Schools: This SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) resource helps districts design and implement wellness and suicide prevention programs.
- Suicide Prevention Campaign Toolkit: The American Association of Pediatrics offers factsheets, infographics, videos, and other materials for parents, schools, clinicians, and the community.
Mental Health Support & Referrals
- Hopeline: 800-442-HOPE (4673) provides phone support by trained suicide prevention volunteers.
- IM ALIVE: College students in crisis can chat online with volunteers certified in crisis intervention, and colleges can host on-campus events to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.
- Mental Health America: 800-969-NMHA (6642) refers callers to local meant
al health services or support programs.
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) HelpLine: Get information and support from NAMI’s Helpline (10am-10pm ET) by calling at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), texting ("HelpLine" to 62640), emailing (firstname.lastname@example.org), or online chat (NAMI.org/help)
- National Parent Hotline: 1-855-427-2736 provides emotional support for parents and caregivers from a trained advocate
- SAMHSA Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator: Search for treatment facilities in the United States or U.S. Territories for substance use/addiction and/or mental health problems.
- The Trevor Project: Call 866-4-U-TREVOR or text “START” to 678678 to reach the LGBTQ Youth Suicide Hotline.
General Resource & Information
- African American Youth Suicide: Report to Congress:Examines patterns of youth suicide by race and ethnicity, with information on risk and protective factors, interventions, and remaining knowledge gaps.
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Suicide Resource Center: Comprehensive information on childhood and teen mental health topics, related facts for families, and links to clinical resources, research and training, books, related websites, and more
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): Suicide prevention resources, including resources supporting diverse communities
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP): Suicide prevention resources, including resources supporting the LGBTQ community
- BestColleges Resource Guide for Students with Psychiatric Disabilities: Information on factors, challenges, accommodations, tips, and resources for college students with psychiatric disabilities
- Black Girls Smile's: Resources and support promoting mentally healthy lives for young African American females
- CDC Website - Suicide Resources Page: Links to data sources, publications, and resources to address mental health, stress, and suicide
- org: Parent’s Guide to Teen Depression shares how to recognize the symptoms of depression in teens.
- org: Dealing with Teen Depression provides information for teens in need of support.
- The Jed Foundation (JED): Mental Health Resources Center with information about emotional health issues for youth and teens
- Indian Health Services: Resources to support suicide prevention efforts and obtain services among American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) families and communities
- gov: Resources for people with mental health conditions, including detailed information about mental conditions, with SAMHSA treatment referral.
- NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website: Resources for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, including advocacy tools and general information
- National Alliance for Hispanic Health: Provides Mental Health information and resources focusing on the Latino community, in English and Spanish.
- National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention: Resource Library that includes products, including toolkits, handouts, PowerPoint presentations, archived webinars, and reports created by the Action Alliance and its partners
- The National Hispanic and Latino Prevention Technology Transfer Center: Offers fact sheets on suicide prevention among Hispanics and Latinos, in English, Spanish, and Portuguese
- National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide prevention and PTSD webpages with free brochures and shareable resources
- SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Resources on mental health, suicide prevention, and related issues, in English and Spanish
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC): Funded by SAMSHA, offers suicide prevention information for families and educators
- Suicide Prevention Resources for Teens: From SPRC, resources include materials on mental health issues, information on programs and practices, and topical articles
- The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Implement the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: A report identifying six priority actions for suicide prevention in the United States, at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels
- Youth Alliance Listing of Help Hotlines: Broad list of helplines for suicide, mental health, abuse, sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse support, runaways, eating disorders, and more.
- National Association of School Psychologists: Offers resources for teens, families, and schools, including downloadables such as Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators, Save a Friend: Tips for Teens to Prevent Youth Suicide, and Preventing Suicide: Information for Administrators and Crisis Teams
Suicide Prevention Requires Awareness, Education, and Action
As National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month approaches, let’s all commit to heightening awareness of the situation. There are many organizations, tools, and crisis hotlines that can help students in K12 and college—help us learn to spot warning signs, create safe learning environments, and improve access to resources across all districts.
New, convenient tools can improve mental health and suicide prevention efforts in your school community, including HelpMe, a mobile app that provides support and includes a crisis text line staffed by volunteers trained by professional crisis intervention professionals. Let’s do what it takes to make a difference!