September marks Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, a time to shed light on the critical issue of mental health, particularly among our young students. While it’s an uncomfortable topic for many, it’s crucial to confront the prevalence and risks of depression and suicide facing students today. Our goal is to shed light on this critical problem, to break down the stigma surrounding depression, and to let others know they are not alone. We also want to equip parents, teachers, and students themselves with actionable steps toward youth suicide prevention.
Depression and suicide rates in children, teens, and young adults have been steadily rising over the years. According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMH), 11.5% (or over 270 million) of youth (ages 12-17) have experienced at least one major depressive episode. Furthermore, suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages 10-19. These numbers are not mere data points; they signify real, young lives grappling with deep emotional pain.
Risk Factors Contributing to Suicide and Depression
Various causes and risk factors can contribute to depression such as:
- high stress levels
- pressure to succeed
- financial uncertainty
- trauma or abuse
These causes can trigger or worsen depression. Each young individual’s experience is also greatly influenced by their personal history, environment, and biological factors.
Help Prevent the Risk of Depression and Suicide
Preventing depression and suicidal ideation starts with understanding and recognizing the early signs. These can include persistent sadness, loss of interest in activities, and withdrawal from social interactions. It’s crucial for schools and colleges to integrate mental health education into their curriculum, fostering an environment where students feel comfortable discussing these issues openly. Here are five actionable steps to help prevent or mitigate the risks of depression and suicide among our youth:
- Promote Open Communication: Encourage your child to express their feelings and concerns. Let them know it’s okay not to be okay, and they can always turn to you for support.
- Foster Healthy Lifestyle Habits: Encourage regular physical activity and a balanced diet, as they can significantly impact mental health. Also, ensure your child gets enough sleep.
- Teach Coping Skills: Equip your child with strategies to manage stress, such as mindfulness and meditation. Resources like Headspace or Calm offer guided sessions suitable for beginners.
- Encourage Social Connection: Facilitate opportunities for your child to connect with peers and engage in social activities. This can help combat feelings of isolation.
- Seek Professional Help: If you notice persistent changes in your child’s behavior or mood, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Therapists, doctors, and school counselors are trained to assist with mental health struggles.
Also, resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Dial 988) and Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741) offer immediate help for anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or extreme emotional distress.
As we commemorate Suicide Prevention Month, let’s pledge to heighten our understanding, support, and advocacy for dealing with youth mental health issues. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness but rather an act of strength. No one is alone in this journey.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health concerns, help is available. Contact The Ross Center today! Don’t suffer in silence. Remember, you are NOT alone!