Squyres: Statistics regarding teens and suicide are frightening, but there are solutions (column)
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
A recent article in the Vail Daily shared the results of the 2017 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (“Survey finds need for youth mental health services,” Friday, Aug. 10).
As is usual in survey research, the findings were a mix of both good and bad news. The number of students professing feelings of depression, sadness and hopelessness and admitting to suicidal thoughts and actions was distressingly high.
When most of us hear about results like these, it’s easy to feel depressed and hopeless ourselves because it feels like we are failing our kids. As a board member of SpeakUp ReachOut, The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Eagle Valley and a clinical psychologist in private practice in Eagle, I would like to respond with some words of hope.
The survey results showed that almost one-third of students had feelings of sadness and hopelessness for at least two weeks and almost one-fourth of middle-schoolers and almost one-fifth of high-schoolers admitted to serious suicidal thoughts. However, fewer than 10 percent admitted to a suicide attempt.
While this number is still way too high, it demonstrates that grave feelings of sadness and despair don’t lead to suicidal actions for most of the kids who experience them. More than 80 percent of students felt they had someone to talk to when they were feeling bad, and about two-thirds stated they had a trusted adult they could go to for help when they had a serious problem. So, we are on the right track.
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This past year has seen so many advances in funding and awareness of the importance of mental health services in our community, it’s hard to feel anything but optimistic about the future. With the passage of ballot measure 1A providing mental health funding from marijuana sales, and generous grants from stakeholders and government agencies, we have a lot of new programs such as the new Eagle River Valley Hope Center, more counselors in the schools and expanded programming from SpeakUp ReachOut and Eagle River Youth Coalition, to name just a few.
Millions of people experience suicidal thoughts, and the vast majority do not die by suicide. In fact, most of these people recover and move on to better, happier lives. By a wide margin, those who are rescued from a suicide attempt are grateful for their rescue and their second chance at life.
Suicide is not just a mental health concern or yet another issue our schools have to deal with. It’s a complex problem that must be addressed at multiple levels within our community and society. Prevention efforts are effective, and the goal we are working toward is zero suicide.
SpeakUp ReachOut offers a variety of empirically validated programs to teach individuals of all ages practical skills to help prevent suicide. If you would like detailed information or you want to do more to help address the problem of suicide in Eagle County, then go to our website at https://www.speakupreachout.org to see how you can participate.
As a clinical psychologist, I see teens and young adults in my psychotherapy practice every day. I bear respectful witness to their fears, worries and despair, but the trust they place in me, as they share their darkest thoughts and fears, is a privilege beyond words.
The depth, caring and resilience I see in our young people is a tremendous source of encouragement and hope. It reminds me that with the right kind of support, skills training, insight and clarity, most people can move beyond their pain to a place of resilience, emotional strength, positivity and well-being. And once achieved, they can pay it forward, healing the world one person at a time.
So, when you read frightening statistics, please remember, there are solutions, and all is not lost. We are a caring community, and as we work together, as parents, educators, legislators, neighbors, first responders, justice workers, psychotherapists, health care professionals, peers and caring adults, we can and will fix what seems to be broken within our youth and our society.
Jill Squyres, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in practice in Eagle and board member of SpeakUp ReachOut, The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Eagle Valley. She can be reached at 970-306-6986 and firstname.lastname@example.org.