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Rebecca Smotherman was the speaker in Sharon Marler’s EDU 360 (Classroom Management) Drury class on April 14.
She wanted the Drury students to be aware of situations that might be happening in a child’s life that might lead them to try to commit suicide. Many of Mrs. Marler’s Drury students will become classroom teachers or work in some way with youth.
Every 16 minutes, they were told, a suicide is completed in the United States. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among children ages 15-24.
Depression and suicidal ideation are major issues that students are experiencing more than you would think. In children and adolescents, an untreated depressive episode may last between 7 to 9 months, which is potentially an entire academic year. In 2007, 8.2 percent of adolescents (an estimated 2 million youth ages 12 to 17) experienced at least one major depressive episode in the past year. More than 90 percent of people who complete suicide have a diagnosable mental disorder, most commonly a depressive disorder or a substance abuse disorder.
Why do people want to end their lives? Many reasons: break-ups; family problems; sexual, physical or mental abuse; drug or alcohol addiction; mental illness; death of a loved one or even a pet; school or work problems; unemployment; feeling like you don’t belong anywhere; or any problem that seems hopeless.
More recently, Smotherman has visited with students who are very worried about money issues- Parents who have lost their jobs; parents being evicted from their homes; no food in the house; water shut off so the student doesn’t have clean clothes to wear; parents getting a divorce; etc.
Students don’t want to add extra worries for parents so they don’t want to share their feelings, don’t want to ask for help, and they start feeling hopeless. Kids just need someone to listen to them.
The strongest risk factors for suicide in youth are: depression, substance abuse and previous attempts. Signs of depression to watch for: depressed mood; change in sleep patterns; change in weight or appetite; speaking and or moving with unusual speed or slowness; loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities; withdrawal from family and friends; feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, desperation, self-reproach or guilt; diminished ability to think or concentrate; thoughts of death, suicide, or wishes to be dead.
Rebecca said to remember the word ACT- A is to Acknowledge that you are seeing signs of depression or suicide in a friend and that it is serious; C- let your friend know you Care about them and that you are Concerned, and he or she needs help you cannot provide; and T-Tell a trusted adult that you are worried about your friend.
Another helpful method is QPR: Q-Question the person about how they are feeling. P- Persuade the person to get help. R-Refer the person to resources.
She said if you are in doubt, you can call 911-tell them the situation and they will refer you to the correct phone number or correct contact. Rebecca tells classes every semester – do not leave the person alone; do not send them to an empty house; and it is much better to seek help than to find out too late you should have done something. To parents: the latest trend is abuse of prescription drugs. These are easy to get, so keep them locked in a safe place at home, with you or in your car locked up; keep them counted-so students can’t get access to them. Many students get desperate and want to buy these drugs from other students.
Parents as Partners in Prevention- by raising parental awareness, schools can partner with parents to watch for signs of problems in their children. Rebecca said the school will be planning another information meeting in May. Watch for information.
If you have further questions or would like her to speak to your group, please feel free to contact Rebecca Smotherman at the Cabool Middle School at 417-962-3153.