Today, 10th September, is World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 (ref. 1) organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention,
”…for people, across the globe, to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention.”
In the school context, statistics from the charity YoungMinds (ref. 2) report that:
“In 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19.”
The then Chief Executive of Samaritans UK said (ref. 3) of the 2018 figures:
“…suicide in young people has increased, and the suicide rate in young females under-25 is now the highest on record.”
This is very clearly a major concern for everyone working in schools.
The causes are complex, including childhood adversities (ref. 4) such as:
“…poverty or long-term unemployment in the family … incidents such as divorce, alcohol [or] drug abuse among the parents, or the death of a parent”
And sadly, we too often have to be aware of and manage the emotional impact on children and adolescents (and indeed upon colleagues) of suicide of a loved one.
Both YoungMinds and the Samaritans, as well as other organisations, provide extensive specialist resources to address issues around suicide. The key is for the affected children, young people or adults to be able to talk about their feelings (ref. 7), and where children and young people express suicidal thoughts or intentions, for staff (with the necessary training) to be able to talk about suicide responsibly (ref. 8).
For adults, the Samaritans have also recently launched a self-help app to help track mood and find practical tips and techniques to look after one’s emotional health. In addition, there are other 24/7 channels to contact the Samaritans. (ref. 9).
Please reach out to them and/or follow other safeguarding channels in your school as applicable, if a child or young person in your care, yourself, a colleague or a loved one, may require this type of support due to possible suicidal thoughts or feelings of despair.
Suicide occurs because of a range of complex factors and dynamics, and requires an appropriately knowledgeable and sensitive response, both towards people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings, and towards those who are bereaved due to the suicide of a loved one.
The pandemic presents an undeniably stressful situation which could exacerbate pre-existing vulnerabilities and create new stressors in many people’s lives.
Organisations such as the Samaritans and YoungMinds provide specialist tools and services in suicide prevention. They go far beyond the scope of the resources that we provide at Mentally Well Schools. Even so, we very much hope that by helping children and adolescents learn how to express their emotions and use evidence-based strategies to manage them earlier in life through our programme resources, we can make a contribution over time to preventing the awful tragedy of suicide in later years.
Written by Ava S. Hasan & The Mentally Well Schools Team
P.S. Please see the links below for further information and support.
P.P.S. If you have something to say in response to this post, please comment below. We’d welcome your thoughts.
ref. 1: https://www.iasp.info/wspd2020/