Scared, anxious, overwhelmed, alone, stupid-these are just some of the emotions our kids feel every day. Youth suicide is an epidemic in this country. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in youth 10-18 years old. To put that into perspective, more kids die from suicide than from Cancer, Heart Disease, AIDS, birth defects, pneumonia, and influenza COMBINED. We, as a nation, need to figure out why kids are killing themselves and how we can help them.
The Disturbing Statistics
(Data is based on CDC Statistics) In 2014, 2,262 kids, age 9-19, successfully committed suicide. 428 of those kids were 9-14 (middle school age.) What’s even more shocking is in that same year, there were 120,990 incidents of self harm in kids age 9-19. 36,857 of those incidents involved 9-14 year olds. These statistics are shocking and heartbreaking at the same time. Something has to be done….
Why Are Kids Killing Themselves?
There are many reasons why a child would end their own lives. Some of the reasons may be:
- underlying psychiatric condition (such as depression or bipolar disorder)
- drug or alcohol abuse
- feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness (a burden on their family)
- sexual orientation (feeling like people won’t accept them for who they are)
- family issues
- physical or sexual abuse
Is Bullying a Direct Cause of Suicide in Children?
According to the CDC publication on the relationship between bullying and suicide, suicide related behavior (suicide, attempting suicide, or suicidal ideation) is rarely the result of a single trauma or stress. Youth who are at risk are dealing with compound issues such as school, parents, mental health issues, etc.
The CDC stresses the importance of understanding the difference between circumstances being related to an event versus being the direct cause or effect of the event.
The Relationship Between Bullying and Suicide
The CDC knows that bullying behavior and suicidal related behavior are closely related, however, there are positives and negatives of the showing the relationship between bullying and youth suicide.
- Shows the harm bullying does to ALL children involved (the bully, the bullied, and witnesses.
- Shows the risk for the most vulnerable children (such as kids with disabilities, with learning disabilities, and LGBYQ youth.)
- Spotlights the problem of bullying and suicide and promotes an open conversation about prevention.
On the other hand, stating that bullying is the single direct reason for youth suicide can be harmful.
- Kids will start to think that suicide is the normal response to being bullied.
- It could encourage copycat behavior.
- Focus on blame and punishment instead of putting the attention on prevention and support for the bullied and the bullies.
- Takes attention away from the other risk factors such as mental illness, substance abuse, family dysfunction, problems coping, etc.
Being involved in bullying in any capacity (the bully, the bullied, or someone who is the bullied AND the bully) is just ONE of the risk factors that increase the risk of youth suicide.
How Can We Help?
There are several different ways to help. They include a multi-dimensional approach, including parents, teachers, peers, school systems, and learning coping skills.
As per youth.gov, “No one person (parent, teacher, counselor, administrator, mentor, etc.) can implement suicide prevention efforts on their own. The participation, support, and active involvement of families, schools, and communities are essential. Youth focused suicide prevention strategies are available. promotion and prevention services are also available to address mental health issues. Schools, where youth spend the majority of their time, are a natural setting to support mental health.
School: Teachers & Students (Peers)
There are a number of small and large steps schools could take to start preventative actions.
Smaller steps would include teachers greeting their students by name and engaging them in talk about extracurricular activities they enjoy.
A sense of connection with a caring adult at school can provide support to kids who are having issues socially and emotionally.
School Based Programs
School based programs such as U OK? Friends Ask! Suicide Prevention Program are peer based programs. Students take the lead, with a teacher, administrator, or parent who volunteers, in implementing a campaign against suicide for their school. The National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide (NCPYS) helps school communities with resources to recognize warning signs, help friends in need, and know where to go for help.
There is no cost for the program but they do ask that you run a fundraiser where the program gets half the proceeds.
This is just an example of one program that could be implemented at schools to prevent youth suicide. There are multiple strategies, manuals, tool kits, fact sheets, etc. that can be searched for in the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.
I know most parents teach their kids to be kind and accepting but lets talk about it a little.
Talk to your children about kindness and compassion. Let them know that if they have a problem, they can come to you, without fear of you flipping out and calling the other kid’s mother. Instill in them the philosophy, you never know what someone else is going through. That child may be suffering from a learning disability and that’s why he can’t read as fast as you. Or maybe that girl’s father lost his job, so she doesn’t have nice clothes to wear to school. Maybe that kid’s parents just got divorced and he’s feeling scared, and alone, and lost. That one snide remark could put one of these kids over the edge.
Tell your children: Don’t be afraid to be the change…..Invite the new kid to sit at your lunch table; offer to tutor that boy in reading; tell that little girl that you like her outfit (even if it is 2 sizes too big.)
On The Other Hand
Help your child learn coping skills. If, hopefully it never happens, but if you become the butt of someone’s joke at school, shake it off. Remind them daily, the only opinion that matters, is the opinion they have of themselves. They create their own destiny. We can change our emotions, that kid making fun of you is the one with the problem. Maybe they have trouble learning, so they lash out at the first person they see. It could be that they are going through something at home, and they don’t know how to express their emotions, and have no one to talk to about it, so they act like they hate everyone. Teach your child not to worry about what other kids say about them. Tell them they are beautiful and special just the way they are.
Meditation for Kids
Meditation is a great tool to use to bring the mind back into focus, calm emotions, and ease tension. Teaching kids some quick and simple meditation practice could help with the daily anxiety the school day brings. Here are easy meditations to teach your child.
These were actually taken from Gabby Bernsteins's The Busy GIrls Guide To Meditation. I’m going to put an adolescent twist on them (I hope she doesn’t mind.)
The One Minute Breathing Exercise
Have your child breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and then release for 5 seconds, Complete this exercise 4 times (for a total of 1 minute-hence the name) Have them picture the perfect school day filled with happiness, not too much work, and acceptance.
I’ve learned that it’s all about mindset. If you go into a situation thinking you’re going to fail, you’re probably going to fail. Go into a situation with the best possible outcome in your mind. Getting an A on a test, sitting with a great bunch of kids at lunch, having a nice walk home, etc. and it will probably go down that way.
Peace Begins With You
(This is my favorite, I taught it to my girls who are 8, 9, 11, and they love it and use it all the time)
Kids can do this exercise anywhere and parents can do when their kids are getting on their nerves LOL. I like to have my daughters do it while they’re studying. Then when it’s time to take the test, they can do it and it helps them remember what they studied!! It can ease anxiety, bring your mind back to focus, and it’s fun to think up different mantras so….
1st gently press your thumb against your index finger, then against your middle finger, then your ring finger, and last press your thumb against your pinkie.
When you touch your index finger, say: PEACE
As you touch your middle finger, say: BEGINS
When you touch your ring finger, say: WITH
And as you touch your pinkie, say: ME
**Tip-you can say any 4 words you want. My girls and I say I AM PURE LOVE Your family can make up any 4 word mantra.
Even as you’re walking you can be mindful and practice meditation. We all know walking the halls of middle or high school was hard sometimes. You feel self-conscious, anxious, and sometimes even downright scared. Teach your kids these steps to ease their minds as they walk.
Take a deep breathe with each step. Focus on your feet hitting the ground with each step. Think of yourself as more grounded and safe with every step. Imagine their is a beautiful shiny bubble around you-that no bad vibes can penetrate-only pure love and confidence can get in.
Finally, use a your mantra from the Peace Begin With You exercise. Say it in your head as you walk tall and proud.
Take a Tech Break
Gabby says, “One of the main reasons ware so stressed these days is because of technology.” With kid these days, the internet is all they’ve ever known. Between violent video games, cyber bullying, and being able to google anything, kids are constantly surrounded by some device. They don’t go outside to play, they bring their phones to the dinner table, my daughters literally FaceTime each other while they’re in the same house. It’s bananas but here’s what you can do
Tell your kids to take a 5 minute technology break (they will protest, believe me) but explain to them that all their electronic devices could be adding to their stress. Then take a walk with them and, most of all, leave your phone at home too!! If that’s not an option just have them sit on their beds in silence. It sounds crazy but it will be good for their mind to be still, to just BE. Also, have them close their eyes and take a couple deep breaths. While 5 minutes might seem like an eternity, it will help them get more centered.
There is a plethora of reasons why a child would kill themselves. The experts do not believe bullying is the direct cause of youth suicides. They do, however, believe that it is ONE of the many risk factors to look for. I uncovered many ways to implement a suicide prevention program in my community, as a result I fully intend to follow up and ask if I can start a program, right here in my hometown.
Just talking about the subject of youth suicide makes people cringe and uncomfortable but we have to step up. Start early (even elementary school kids should be evaluated and taught proper preventive skill.) Show your kids some of those simple meditations, hopefully, they will like one and use it.
Teach faith and hope. Remind them…….
The most amazing things in life usually happen right at the moment you’re about to give up hope
The most amazing things in life usually happen right at the moment you're about to give up hope Click To Tweet