Life Rafts

School Psychologists give advice on how to deal with suicide

With suicide being the second leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States, suicide rates have risen by 24 percent from 1999 to 2014, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Many students are dealing with internal and external pressures, increasing the amount of stress they put on themselves according to school counselor, Tiffany Straight.

“There’s this pressure for perfection as if you’re not going to have stumbles or hiccups,” Straight said. “It’s unrealistic to expect that you’re going to go through four years of high school without some hiccups. Sometimes our students have hiccups, they get stuck and really overwhelmed.”

With students being overwhelmed and stressed, some begin to look at suicide as an option. Through the risk assessments done by the school psychologists and counselors at RUHS, students reveal a lack of social engagement, grades dropping and a disinterest in activities they were once interested in when dealing with depression or suicidal thoughts.

School psychologist, Holly Hunt believes that it is helpful to encourage people to talk to someone about it.  

“I think everybody kind of has a trusted adult, who doesn’t necessarily have to be your parents. Maybe it’s someone in your youth group, a coach on a team, your counselor or a teacher that you really like,” Hunt said. “Just reminding everyone to reach out [is important] because there is somebody out there that wants to listen and help.”

Stress and anxiety usually come up when people are feeling down about themselves according to  Hunt, giving good coping skills a necessary role.

“When people have good coping skills, I think that that is helpful,” Hunt said. “Things like listening to music, exercise and things like that which we typically do does help. [We have to] make sure that we’re doing these things to take care of our mental health as well as our physical health.”

Being aware of what stresses a person out can help them avoid those things, which is a key factor to helping oneself. Also, practicing coping skills ahead of time is important because when a person is frustrated, it is hard to think of solutions in the moment, according to Hunt.  

“If you’re already stressed out, you’re like ‘I have no idea [what would help me].’ When you’re calm, you can think about things like ‘I feel good when I call my friends, when I listen to music or whenever I take my dog for a run,’” Hunt said. “Then, you can use those same things whenever you’re feeling stressed to help manage and make yourself feel better.”

Hunt encourages students to look at the bigger picture when dealing with a problem.

“We always come from a place of reminding people that there is so much more in life,” Hunt said. “I always encourage kids to think about if it will matter next week, next month or next year because sometimes, we think it’s stuff that’s the end of the world [when it’s not].”

Taking a moment to remember that everybody on the planet is dealing with something is helpful, according to Hunt.

“It’s important to remind people that there are people who are supportive and do care for them,” Hunt said. “We can overcome all kinds of problems and there really isn’t much in life that we cannot overcome with support.”

Hunt believes that it is important to spread the word and let each other know that “we’re all in this together.”

“[About a month ago], we had a death on campus. It was really great to see all the students come together, support one another and see that love that was amongst students. Grief is a really difficult thing for students, so seeing that level of support shows me that students are on the right track already,” Hunt said.

Seeking help can be a difficult at times, especially when it is for friends according to Hunt.

“I know it sounds weird to rat out your friends but sometimes if you know that somebody is struggling and you’re not sure how to help, don’t be afraid to reach out to somebody and say ‘I’m worried about my friend’,” Hunt said.

If students do not feel comfortable with having a direct conservation to seek help either for themselves or others, they may use anonymous methods such as Sprigeo or by leaving a note under Hunt’s door, as some have done.

“Hopefully at the end of the day, the person you are trying to help will understand that you are coming from a place of love, caring and support and that you’re not trying to throw them to the wolves,” Hunt said. “I would encourage students to reach out in other ways if they’re afraid of being direct.”

Trust and confidentiality are necessary for people when speaking about their problems. Everything a student states is confidential with the exception of three things: If a student is going to hurt someone, if a student is going to hurt themselves or if a somebody is hurting the student. In these situations, the parents would be notified along with a greater support system.

Letting students know that there are safe people to vent and talk to without worry is crucial.

Students should know that there is an outlet according to Hunt.

“It’s okay to have days where we are frustrated and it’s okay to vent those things. There are a ton of people on this campus that love to have students stop by and talk about what is on their mind, whether good or bad,” Hunt said. “Students should seek out those relationships so that everybody feels like they have someone on campus that they connect with.”

If students do not feel comfortable sharing with their situation with somebody on campus, they may talk to the counselors for hotline numbers. There are many ways to talk to somebody, even anonymously.

“We have numbers that they could have if it’s two in the morning and they are feeling really overwhelmed,” Straight said. “We have a lot of students that don’t want to necessarily disclose to their parents, their friends and school counselors that they’re struggling even though we’re here to help students for more than just the academics.”

Addressing suicide helps bring awareness according to Hunt, which may cause a drop in suicide rates.

“It’s a difficult conversation and it’s a taboo topic for a lot of people,” Hunt said. “However, with the more people that talk about it, it becomes easier for that person who is sitting in the corner and who has thought about it to talk, if they see other people are talking about this issue too.”

It is necessary to talk about mental health and coping skills in schools, according to Hunt.

“I think that Redondo Union is pretty progressive, and continuing to make mental health part of the curriculum in the same way that we take care of our bodies is important,” Hunt said. “It’s important to be aware of how to cope with the different feelings and emotions that we feel in regards of stress, anxiety or depression.”

For the sake of one’s mental health and happiness, it is a priority for students to be connected with help according to Straight.

“At the end of the day, no one really should be suffering, but that’s what’s happening with the suicides,” Straight said. “People are suffering so long on their own that they get to that point where they feel totally hopeless.”

Straight believes that only talking about the stress and tragedies will not make them go away, but it is how a student decides to cope with them.  

“You guys are in your adulthood and the train goes on whether this tragic situation happens or not, so we have to cope with it. First, it’s identifying the stress,” Straight said. “Some tragedy may occur, but those things happen. It’s how do we handle that, thrive and not get ourselves to that deep, dark and hopeless place.”