SEPTEMBER IS SUICIDE PREVENTION AWARENESS MONTH
by Toni Wellen, CAGV Chair Emeritus
The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has been associated with mental health challenges related to and caused by the disease and to mitigation activities, including the impact of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.
Symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder have increased considerably in the United States with the onset of this deadly pandemic beginning in early 2020 as compared with early 2019.
Suicide presents major challenges to public health in the US and the world. America is a global leader in suicide rates. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in people between the ages of 10-24, with rates rising steadily over the past two decades. More than 60 in 100-gun deaths each year are by suicide. Handgun ownership is associated with much higher suicide risk. Men who own handguns are eight times more likely to die of gun suicide than men who don’t own handguns, and women who own handguns are 35 times more likely than women who don’t.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults, and for every youth suicide it is estimated that 100 to 200 others attempt suicide. Young adulthood is a time when many people experience significant stress from life transitions such as gaining more independence and responsibility when moving from home and beginning college or a career. Those stresses have been amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. There are glimmers of resilience – the ability to bounce back from a negative experience or difficult challenge—for young adults.
Increased firearm acquisition has occurred causing increased psychological distress due to COVID. There is an increase in established suicide risk factors (personal loss, isolation). The data relating suicide to COVID continues to be studied and compiled.
Firearms are the most lethal method for suicide, and 60% firearm deaths are suicides. Therefore, it is strongly encouraged for all firearm owners to observe safe storage by keeping firearms locked and unloaded, separate from the ammunition. This caution makes sense in order to reduce the number of suicides.
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO?
If you have a firearm in your home, lock it unloaded separate from ammunition
Listen to your children. Communication is critical.
Pay attention to their emotions. Become involved in your
child’s school and talk with other parents. Have more
parent-teacher conferences. Teach your children to live
by the Golden Rule, it is timeless: “Do unto others as you
would have them do unto you.”
Some studies found that 24% of students reported they felt school unsafe and 28% of students felt violence was OK in school. Bullying is more than teasing. Fifty percent of high school students admitted to violence. Victims often display the following symptoms: anxiety, insecurity, depression, sadness, low self-esteem, lack of social skills, experiencing loneliness, insomnia and sometimes suicidal thoughts. The incidence of suicide by bullied kids is increasing. Ten percent of students studied had brought weapons to school.
As concerning as these trends are, it’s important to remember that suicide is preventable. Knowing the warning signs is a critical first step in preventing suicide.
• Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose,
• Feeling trapped, being a burden to others
• Giving away personal items or wrapping up loose ends
• Saying goodbye to friends and family
• Displaying extreme mood swings
• Increased use of alcohol or drugs
• Acting anxious, agitated, or reckless
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Withdrawing or feeling isolated
• Showing extreme anger or seeking revenge for perceived injustices
BULLYING IS NOT JUST TEASING — IT IS FAR MORE
Historically kids have always teased each other. It begins in kindergarten and continues, accelerating during the tumultuous years of middle school. Deep emotional scars often result. Today, bullying has become more invasive due to social media plus media that celebrates violence.
Seven Things Kids Need to Know about Bullying
1. Bullying is disobeying the Golden Rule – treat others the way
you want to be treated. The Golden Rule is the answer to all
relationship problems. Don’t let others convince you to mistreat
someone, to laugh when they are mistreated and don’t ignore it.
2. Remember, no one deserves to be bullied. Don’t let others
convince you that you are defective or that you aren’t what you
should be. It is never okay to bully someone. If you are doing
something that doesn’t help you make and keep friends, try to
stop it. But they never have the right to bully you.
3. Bullying needs to be stopped. It can have future consequences.
There are ways to prevent and stop bullying. You may not be able
to solve this on your own. If you need help talk to a trusted adult,
a teacher, or discuss it with your parents. You don’t have to put
up with bully or solve it on your own. You are not tattling, you
are reporting. When you tattle, you are trying to get someone into
trouble. When you report, you are trying to help someone who
is in trouble.