- Many of you, in fact most of you may not have known the student your school and community has lost. Please know that this is not unusual, and does not make you insensitive, or excluded.
- Most of you are fairly private and do not like others to pry into details of your life. Please offer the same respect to the deceased. We are urging you to NOT probe for details about the event. Please avoid exploration of details of venue or method.
- If you are aware of any details, and believe that they be of help in healing the community or preventing further tragedies, please be responsible with the information. Please reach out to an adult faculty member at your school. They will be able to safely guide you to the appropriate support. DO NOT pass information around to peers. Doing so puts other vulnerable peers at risk of imitation.
- Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when the number of stories about individual suicides increases. Please try to not discuss with peers stories about other teens you knew who have lost their lives to suicide.
- DO share stories about how many, many teens actually do overcome despair, and work through their illness without attempting suicide. Share your story if this is true, but responsibly. It will give hope to many of your peers.
- Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when a particular death is reported at length or in many stories. Please DO NOT tweet, text or Facebook about a peer you have lost to suicide. The more you do so, the more likely it is that a vulnerable peer [perhaps even a friend] will be triggered.
- Research finds an increase in suicide by readers or viewers when the headlines about specific suicide deaths are dramatic. Please be cautious, respectful and mellow in your written communications such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and texting.
- We are aware of the pain you are experiencing, and respect your need to express yourselves during this difficult time. We do ask however that you NOT create dramatic banners about the specific student suicide death. You may create a general banner supporting suicide prevention instead.
- Please be aware that while teens lost to suicide had many positive aspects of his/her life and character, they likely had problems and struggles as well. Autopsy studies of suicide victims age <20 years reveal the following:
- 90% meet the diagnostic criteria for a psychiatric disorder
- >50% had experienced severe symptoms for >2 years
- Only >15% are in treatment at the time of their death
- If you friend was close to the student we have lost, please remind him/her that the suicide was not their fault. Nothing they said or did, or didn't say or do, caused the death.
- There are many options for getting help, like medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
- Exposure to suicidal behavior in your peers increases your own risk for depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Please seek help should symptoms surface.
- Just as in other illnesses, a person can receive the best medical treatment available and still not survive. Many however do indeed get better.
- Only some people die from depression, not everyone.
HOW YOU CAN HELP A PEER
[Advice for students who are aware of a peer having suicidal thoughts]
- Take your friend’s words and actions seriously: Do not assume that they are joking when they talk about suicide
- Act immediately: If you think a friend is considering suicide, the first step is to act
- Do something: Dismissing their words and actions could be the difference between life and death
- Reach out and stay: As their friend, you might be the best person to reach out to them. If you are not willing to talk to them, who will be? Put your twitter and texting to good use in supporting them.
- Tell an adult: Whether it is a parent/teacher/coach/school counselor/youth pastor/other trusted adult, seek their guidance. Even if sworn to secrecy, the risk of losing your friend to suicide is not worth keeping a secret.
WHAT TO SAY TO A SUICIDAL FRIEND:
- Remind your friend of their worth [combat “worthlessness”]
- Remind them that they are not alone in how they feel or what they are experiencing [combat “loneliness”]
- Reassure them that suicidal thoughts are temporary, that there is hope [combat “hopelessness”]
- Help your friend see that they are depressed and need help. People who need help are often blind to it [combat “helplessness”]
- With the help of an adult get your friend to a doctor or ER
- Remind your friend that depression and suicidality are MEDICAL PROBLEMS that can be treated [combat “guilt/self-blame”]
TYPICAL RESPONSES YOU MAY HAVE TO A PEER SUICIDE:
Teens react in many different ways to the loss of a peer to suicide. Please do not feel alone if the way you are feeling is different from your peers. Also, your feelings may fluctuate and change many times during the course of a single day. This is not unusual. Please be kind to yourself and seek support if you are struggling.
- Denial and minimization
- Guilt, blaming self
- Anger toward all [deceased/God/self/school/friends/family]
- Fear of own mortality
- Worry regarding losing others
- Wishing it would all just go away
- Embarrassment about return to school or interacting with peers