By: Maisie Stout
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens in the United States. West Virginia’s annual suicide rates are just above the national average, and we have the 11th highest suicide rates out of the country. About one million people each year attempt to inflict harm on themselves, and many suicide attempts go unreported or untreated.
As a representative of the Prevent Suicide WV organization, Hope Siler spends a lot of time working throughout the state to help schools and communities become more prepared to handle and prevent situations involving suicide. She did a program last year in the health classes that involved informing students about suicide and even consisted of depression screenings for the students. Siler worked with faculty so that they might be more equipped to identify and help students that might be thinking of attempting suicide. This program will be continuing this year in February, and students are advised to take the screenings and the lessons seriously. This year Siler will be helping inform students of the correct way to handle situations involving suicide.
In the past, many people have blamed teen angst as the cause of suicide or suicide attempts. People have assumed that kids are looking for attention or just being dramatic for the sake of being dramatic. However, recent studies have shown that mental disorders like anxiety and depression are commonplace among youth today. Poor mental health can lead to a downward spiral if help is not found, because of this more effort is being made to expand the treatment of mental health.
Other emotional issues can often lead to suicidal thoughts as well. A family member’s death, a bad break up, or trouble with bullying (usually a combination of all) are some situations that can influence feelings of hopelessness. Sadly, the odds are that almost everyone has been affected by suicide, but there are ways that suicidal behaviors can be identified and prevented.
“Sometimes we notice people that may seem depressed or seem really quiet, and then they come in the next day really energetic and talk to people- their mood changes dramatically; those are the people that could be at risk as well,” Siler said.
If you notice a friend acting strangely- maybe they have been down in the dumps and uninterested in group activities for a while- then it is suggested that you reach out to them. The organization Prevent Suicide WV has an acronym, IS PATH WARM, that gives examples of things to look for in someone that you might think is contemplating suicide. For example, the “I” in this mnemonic stands for ideation. Someone showing signs of ideation may be thinking, talking, or writing about suicide a lot. For more on IS PATH WARM and how to recognize signs, visit preventsuicidewv.org or contact the suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255. Many people also are not aware that there is a text line as well, which is 741 741. You can text anything to this number and someone will reply to help you, or the person you are trying to help, get through the situation.
It is difficult, in many aspects, to handle the aftermath of a suicide, especially in small communities. Memorialization is tricky because it can influence other people struggling with mental health issues or people thinking of suicide to actually go through with it so that they too can get attention. One way to honor or remember someone who has committed suicide is to participate in an annual “Out of Darkness Walk” which is led by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. This is a walk for families and friends to gather and remember loved ones. Another way to remember someone you have lost is to think about what that person meant to you, and embody that characteristic that influenced you and make yourself better for it.For more information on any of the topics above visit preventsuicidewv.org or afsp.org, or call the hotline (1-800-273-8255). Counselors are available to talk at any time. If you see something, say something. It could save a life.