Schools, parents should make suicide prevention a priority

Monday, October 5th, 2020 00:00 |

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Lucy Simiyu

As we mark the World Mental Health Awareness week starting today, it is important to pay special attention to our students’ mental health.

This is, especially because of the uncertainties and disruptions brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Mental health is a broad subject and it is, therefore, important to narrow down on the most stigmatised topic: Suicide.

Most people find it both difficult and uncomfortable to have conversations about suicide and yet global statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death among school age youth.

With this in mind, teachers, parents, and friends need to initiate conversations around this topic, since they are the ones closest to teenagers during their school-going years. 

It is worth noting that suicide is preventable. Young people who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress.

Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get or find help for their teen.

It is important to never take these warning signs lightly, or promise to keep them a secret.

Some of the signs to look out for include long lasting sadness, mood swings and unexpected rage, deep sense of hopelessness, sleep problems, withdrawal from friends or social activities, changes in personality or appearance, dangerous or self-harming behaviour such as drug or alcohol abuse, recent trauma, or life crises such as the death of a loved one or divorce, and  making preparations or threatening or talking suicide. 

In addition to looking out for the warning signs, a deep and genuine concern for students is helpful in identifying those most-at-risk. 

Often, those most-at-risk will share information about prior suicide attempts, a family history of suicide, social isolation, family stress, family dysfunction, chronic disease or disability or ongoing exposure to bullying, such as cyberbullying. 

When adults in school settings commit to making suicide prevention a priority, we can help our children and adolescents before they engage in behaviour that results in irreversible consequences.

Having this conversation marks the beginning of empowering members of the school community, students and adults alike, to take correct steps. - The writer is a Psychologist at Crawford International School.

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