For many animals in the arctic tundra, summer is a time of scarce food and many new mouths to feed. Parents of their young instinctively know that if they stop trying to aid in the necessities, their family will not survive. They know they must keep going and searching, even if it means weeks without food and hundreds of miles crossed. And so it is with people. If parents decide to stop providing necessary resources to children, then the family unit may not survive or the children may go elsewhere for the physical or mental needs of life. It is in this context that I wish to address the saddening increase in suicides among a young crowd of middle schoolers.
The most recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that for children ages 10 -14 the second most leading cause of death is suicide. Utah is ranked 5th in the nation for suicides. It is for this reason that parents, teachers, and students of all ages should be aware of the warning signs associated with suicide. This can create a society of support for one another rather than the current one of “every man for himself.”
It is easy to think that “Oh, suicides don’t happen in small towns or near me. I am not affected by this concern.” In addition to this ignorance, is the culture of having suicide as a “taboo” subject. People don’t like to talk about it or bring it up. If it happens, you’ll hear about their death through the grapevine of whispered voices and will not likely see it as the cause of death in the paper. I remember a teacher that passed away and after much pestering towards my mom to get her to tell me how my teacher died, she quietly whispered, “suicide” - as if saying it at full talking voice would somehow send bad karma (which, by the way, my mother does not even believe in). These attitudes and approaches towards suicide itself must end if we are to help students feel confident enough in their own skin.
There are many programs in Utah that are aiming to end suicide altogether. Although their efforts are effective, it is impossible to reach all schools without the help of the state working with them in their endeavors. According to the Utah Education Network, a curriculum will be added to the health classes for students that will include a mental health section. The subjects and aims of the curriculum can be found here: http://www.uen.org/core/core.do?courseNum=7150
According to Clark Flatt who is the founder of the Jason Foundation for teaching others about suicide warning signs, “Training teachers is the single most impactful thing a state can do.” What the mental health curriculum does is take this education beyond teachers and provides resources for the children. By doing this, the state of Utah would not only have a handful of educators working to help end suicides, but also the students. This adds thousands of more ears and eyes to recognize the signs of suicide. It brings hope that someone might speak up and not be afraid to talk about death or similar topics to adults. This creates a chance to find the resources we need to use or create to fulfill those physical and mental needs of our youth.
Another resource is Hope4Utah which is founded and run by Dr. Greg Hudnall. This organization is full of educators who are capable to train others to talk about and know the steps to take if suicide is brought up. Programs presented to students are age appropriate and open doors to conversations that otherwise would have never happened. The team with HOPE4UTAH has expanded to other states besides Utah with the intention of continuing to grow their efforts throughout the nation. Successful and positive organizations like this one need advocates to help them reach out and influence more individuals so that the rate of suicides will decrease and the capacity to help one another increases.
With a health curriculum that empowers individuals to recognize who they are and their influence in the world around them, the possibilities to help our youth are seemingly endless. This program in schools can teach individuals how they react and cope with hardship and teach them healthy ways to recognize and treat stress and anxiety.
In addition to this being a positive influence in school, students will take this knowledge with them throughout their lives. Their knowledge will impact their families, loved ones, and even future co-workers. The truth is, the more people who are educated about mental health and suicide prevention, the more advocates we’ll have for life. Value will be placed on strangers rather than hate. People will know what resources there are and how to combat their own life struggles. Lives will be saved tomorrow because of the things that were taught today.
So, to all parents, guardians, and educators: I say this, “Just keep swimming.” Don’t give up trying to talk with your child. Don’t give up trying to understand them. Keep looking for ways to be an advocate for them and their peers. Instead of trying to logically understand everything, be empathetic. If you have to spend more time at home with them, go to therapy, or just serve them - do it. Children and youth of today, whether they’ll admit it or not, look up to older generations. For that alone, we must not give up on them. In all honesty, this is not the easy route. It is more difficult to
For a full article of Clark Flatt’s remarks, visit
For additional resources visit:
By Paula Dudley