Today’s child has become the unwilling, unintended victim of overwhelming stress–the stress borne of rapid, bewildering social change and constantly rising expectations.
David Elkind, The Hurried Child
Each year in the U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14-year-olds. Obviously, as youth workers we have to take suicide seriously.
This is what I have learned and gathered:
1) Probe each suicidal student and take them seriously.
Ask a lot of questions. Here are some great questions to ask:
* Do you have a plan on how to take your life?
* Do you really believe that you killing yourself is the best way to go?
* On a scale 1 to 10 (10 being super serious and 1 being not serious at all) how serious are you about committing suicide?
* Who in your life deeply and unconditionally loves you?
* What is stressing you at?
*What is causing you to believe that getting away from it all will be the solution?
2) Understand where they are coming from.
Do not over react when a student talks about committing suicide. Stay calm and cool. Make sure to thank the student for their courage and trust in sharing their thoughts and feelings with you. Make it clear to the person that you care about them. Understand what are the stressors that are causing the student to feel that they cannot handle life. Here are some student stressors:
* Parent dies * Parents separate * Parent remarries * School difficulties * Break up with BF/GF
* Parent divorce * Low self esteem * threat of violence at school *parent expectations * Parent problems
Decide how serious they are. In your assessment, you need to decide if there needs to be a course of action. Maybe at this point, the student realizes that taking their life is a big deal and they did not understand the gravity. So there is no need for a course of action. Or maybe the student is really serious and there needs to be a course of action. Bottom line the serious suicidal student needs to realize they need help. This phase would be a great time for prayer and seeking His Spirit for wisdom and discernment. It is essential to make an action plan aligned with the student’s suicidal seriousness.
4) Enroll others.
It is essential that the student’s friends, parents, and other adults know they are considering suicide. Make sure to tell the suicidal student that you are going to tell others. I would even suggest to invite the suicidal student to tell others, but make sure to give them a deadline. If they do not tell others by the deadline, you as the youth worker will.
5) Refer to professionals.
We are only youth workers and we do not have the professional training or the tools to solve a student suicide. A youth worker can get professional in two ways. First they can get help at the local hospital. The local hospital should have a professional psychologist who specifically works with suicidal patients. Second the youth worker can refer to a respected counselor or a therapist. Every youth worker should have a list of good Christian therapist, that they can trust.