Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

Cindy Hewatt, LMFT

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month and I wanted to offer some resources and things to be mindful of. Thinking about talking to your kids about suicide or thoughts of suicide can be very scary. Seeing your child depressed or struggling can break your heart.  People can worry that if they discuss suicide with someone, it can lead to them acting on the "suggestion,”  but research shows that talking about suicide does not lead people to act on it. People who are thinking of hurting or killing themselves want help and want to know they are not alone.  By reaching out and opening the discussion, it shows that you as a parent or a friend are paying attention, care about them, are not afraid to have a really hard conversation, and can help to get that person resources that can literally save a life. 

As a school last year, stress and anxiety were higher than usual due to COVID (and all the things that it changed in how we lived and went to school).  Certainly some things are better this year: we have extracurriculars, more normal school schedules, and people are more able to get together and see each other.  However, there is still an uncertainty of what may happen in the future (Could we quarantine?  Could someone I love get sick?)..

Model By Addressing Anxiety in a Healthy Way

These are real concerns that many have, and how we model our own worries or anxieties affects our kids. Model taking care of yourself and managing your own anxieties.  Share with your kids if you do have a worry, and how you're going to cope with it. This shows your kids that feelings are normal, we can manage how we cope with them and they come and go. Seeing you manage your feelings shows them they can be successful at managing theirs as well. This does not necessarily mean the feelings go away, but they are manageable.

Supporting Students This Month

This month I will be doing my yearly Suicide Awareness and Prevention presentation in the middle school classrooms.  Below are the basics of what I will be presenting to your kids. Please feel free to use this information as a stepping stone to have discussions with your kids and know that being open to these topics helps kids know you can handle the difficult conversations, which will help them come to you for other hard discussions in the future.   

When someone is having suicidal thoughts they are often feeling like there is no hope, no way out of a situation or that they will never recover from a situation they find themselves in. They are probably feeling overwhelmed and alone or that they will never feel better. If they were feeling better and less stressed, they would probably be able to think about the future as challenging, but that there is hope and possible ways to make things better. Stress decreases our ability to problem solve, be creative and ask for help.

Warning signs of suicidal thoughts for yourself or for someone you know:

  • Making suicidal statements like “I’m going to kill myself,” “I wish I was dead,” or “I’m thinking of hurting myself” and/or engaging in self harming behaviors.
  • Planning and/or obtaining a means to take one’s own life,
  • Withdrawing or isolating.  Not being in touch with friends, staying in your room away from family, stopping activities that used to be enjoyable
  • In adolescents depression can look much more like irritability, everything is irritating, being cranky and short tempered. Not sleeping well, not eating well, hygiene begins to decline.  It can also present as increased sadness and lack of energy, or the opposite where there is more risk taking behaviors that are out of character.
  • A preoccupation with death, dying or violence
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Use of drugs or alcohol
  • Giving away belongings and saying goodbyes
  • The person just doesn't seem to be able to bounce back to their usual state of functioning

If you’re experiencing any of these feelings or you know someone who is, it’s important to reach out for help and support. Tell a trusted adult, parent, teacher, doctor or reach out to:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline-1-800-273-8255

Or use Lifeline Chat at suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

If you know someone who is struggling and thinking about suicide or who is experiencing depression, you should not handle this type of situation by yourself.  The sooner you reach out the sooner support can be put into place. If you're an adolescent, tell an adult who you trust. If you're an adult, reach out to professionals who can help guide you. As a school we have referral lists of trusted therapists and can guide families who are seeking out services. Feel free to contact me or Mr. Skipwith for a list of referrals.

We all go through our own ups and downs. When having thoughts of harming yourself or others, or seeing a friend or family member struggle with those thoughts and noting that it’s not a normal mood swing, it’s important to take action and get support from a trusted adult  Most people who attempt suicide have shown one or more of the warning signs listed above, so take them seriously and seek help. If you see them in someone else, ask them the question of “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” or let an adult know so they can ask them. You may be the first person who noticed and opened up the subject for them to feel they are not alone. There is hope, help and support and the Aspen community is a support to all of us and we all look out for each other.

 

About the Author

Cindy Hewatt, School Counselor, LMFT

Cindy holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has been a practicing clinician for over 20 years, with almost all of that being in non-profit/alternative school settings. She has worked with children from preschool to high school and enjoys each developmental stage for its own strengths and challenges. Aspen Academy drew Cindy with its small class sizes and custom learning approach for each child. With the understanding that each child has their unique talents, strengths and struggles, it is our privilege to help each student find their best selves by providing a safe, creative and enriched environment.

Outside of school Cindy enjoys spending time with her daughter, a new Aspen Academy student, Ellie. Cindy also enjoys creating art, cooking, reading and exploring the outdoors.