September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

  • Child Development
  • Health and Wellness
Jessie Skipwith

School is underway and in full swing! Certainly emotions are high.Yes, excitement, wonder and joy are abundant! At the same time, nerves, stress and anxiety are also at heightened levels. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is a time when professionals in schools and the mental health community recognize the importance of providing information and support in identifying appropriate signs and symptoms for students at risk. Recognizing the connection between feelings of anxiety and stress and depression is the first step, and early intervention helps tremendously in getting our students to a better place of self-regulation and self-care.

This month, Suicide Prevention Awareness efforts will allow us to build our community’s capacity to recognize signs and symptoms of youth at risk of suicidal ideation, provide members of our community with actions we can take when such challenges are observed, and providing access to an abundance of resources that will allow us to continue to collectively grow in our own education as we support each member of our global family.

We know historically that youth suicide has been a major concern and challenge throughout the United States. According to statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health, “ While suicide was the 10th most common cause of death among Americans of all ages in 2017, it was the second leading cause of death among young Americans age 15 to 24.”

We can see this is a significant health risk to our young people, and we know that with education we can take proactive steps in helping to mitigate this challenge facing today’s children.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month: Steps We Can All Take

Be There - as we inspire connection and hope by building authentic and lasting relationships among the students in our school community, we can listen, validate, and just be present without judgment for one another. In light of both research and statistics in this area, we know that this is an area of student education and growth that we can provide intentionally by equipping students and adults in their lives with intervention strategies.  Students at Aspen Academy will have opportunities to learn and discuss these strategies through Leadership Classes with teachers and counselors.

Keep Them Safe - once a student is identified as potentially being at risk for suicidal ideation, self-harm or thoughts, remaining vigilant in our awareness can be most helpful. We can directly ask a student we are concerned about if they are having suicidal thoughts, if they’ve ever tried to hurt themselves before or if they have a current plan to do so, and if they have access to means or methods that would actually help them carry out their plan. These are safe and necessary questions that we can feel comfortable asking students directly.  This may feel uncomfortable for adults and children alike, but we know that asking the questions is a needed first step.

Help Them Stay Connected - we know that students feel safe and supported when they are connected with their peer group and safe adults in their school and home communities. In talking with your child, identifying people in their daily lives that they feel comfortable reaching out to when they are experiencing heightened levels of anxiety, or if they begin withdrawing into themselves because of anxiety that might not have been managed, can help students in those trying moments. Here at Aspen Academy, parents, teachers, and your childrens’ friends, are all support systems that we can tap into on any given day to keep an eye open for one another. It is common practice for us to take care of each other here at Aspen Academy, and we encourage students and parents to reach out early and often in such cases.

Following Up - when a student has been experiencing challenges with anxiety, depression, or feeling isolated, it is important for those individuals who have been identified as safe people to remain connected, accessible and present. This can sometimes be challenging as these life circumstances can certainly feel daunting and overwhelming for students.  It is also important to let friends who have been identified as a “safe person” understand that adult matters are not for them to take on alone. 

Education – we can never be too informed when it comes to keeping you friends safe. At Aspen Academy, teachers, counselors, and parents leverage the opportunity to present strategies to all students in grade appropriate ways so that they can feel confident in supporting their friends toward a safe and healthy future.  Please find below an array of resources that will help you as you engage in dialogue with your children during the month of September in support of suicide prevention awareness month.

 

 

Upcoming Parent Universities

Each year, Aspen Academy provides opportunities for our community of parents and caregivers to learn and grow together, with a focus on the topics that are most important and relevant for you. In 2020-2021, our Parent University events focus on equipping parents with managing uncertainty. Events are free unless otherwise noted. 

 

Mark your calendars:

  • September 10, 2020 What Does it Mean to be an Ally? - Register here
  • October 1, 2020 Future Holders: Developing Youth Leaders - Registration to come
  • November 12, 2020 How Can We Keep Our Tweens and Teens Talking to Us? - Registration to come
  • December 10, 2020 Recognizing and Supporting Others Through Anxiety and Depression - Registration to come

In addition to the events above, Aspen Academy parents are invited to participate in the Cherry Creek Parents Information Network (PIN) presentations. Information on those events (daytime and evening) are available on the PIN website: https://www.pinccsd.org/presentations/.

In caring for one another and working in partnership with parents,  we are given a wonderful opportunity to live out our Aspen Academy Core Values: Be Kind, Do Good, Work Hard, Make the World Better.

 

About the Author

Skipwith_small-square

Jessie Skipwith is the Director of Elevate & Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Licensed School Counselor at Aspen Academy.

Jessie comes to Aspen Academy with over 20 years of experience in educational leadership and student engagement. He has held head of school positions at elementary, middle and high schools, ran an all-school counseling department, provided private practice counseling services for families and individuals, and has served as the executive director of an education non-profit supporting low-income, English language learners from throughout the greater Denver area. He is a voracious reader of books about how students learn, how families and communities support developing young people, as well as books on progressive, innovative and dynamic new solutions to many of today’s life challenges. Jessie loves that Aspen Academy provides families and students with a small, nurturing and safe environment that encourages students to take healthy risks, to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, and that it inspires insatiable curiosity and wonder in students as they pursue their passions to help make the world a better place to live for all people. Outside of work, he loves to spend time with his wife and two children and enjoying Colorado’s great outdoors while hiking, golfing or skiing.