Category Children’s Mental Health

Taking Suicide Prevention Upstream

Across the country, school districts are providing mental health awareness and suicide prevention training for teachers and school personnel. Some are mandated or encouraged to do so by state law, others are motivated by recent incidents, and some introduce this kind of education because suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among youth aged 15-24.

Teacher and parent training are key components in any plan to address teen suicide. Increasingly, however, communities are recognizing that kids need to learn about mental health, too. Social and emotional learning across the lifespan reduces risk factors and promotes protection factors for violence, substance abuse, negative health outcomes, and suicide. One way to provide universal student training is by including a mental health component in the standard wellness or health curriculum. School districts and individual schools can implement individual, more targeted programs as well.

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iFred Provides “Schools for Hope” for Kids’ Emotional Health

Kathryn Goetzke, Founder, International Foundation For Research and Education on Depression

A new school year brings a flurry of activity with the return to early morning alarm clocks, class schedules, new teachers, and a renewed connection with peers after summer break. Homework returns and many extracurricular activities are back in full swing. It can be an exciting time to see friends and share summer stories. But for some children, the school year may elicit feelings of uncertainty, anxiety and sadness. Left unrecognized, these feelings can lead to a decline in a child’s emotional wellness, relationships with family and friends, and academic performance. In some circumstances, the consequences can be devastating.

That is why children need to learn from an early age how to care for their emotional health, just as they learn academic skills, as each will help prepare them for success and happiness in life. The importance of always having hope is a vital component to mental health across age groups. Hope has been found to correspond with greater emotional and psychological well-being, enhanced personal relationships, and greater academic performance with published research suggesting hope is a skill that can be taught.

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Suicide, Stigma, and the Role of Religious Faith

Matthew S. Stanford, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Neuroscience, and Biomedical Studies, Baylor University

We acknowledge the collaboration of American Association of Pastoral Counselors in developing this post.

Throughout history, suicide has frequently been misunderstood and religion has played a significant role in adding to its stigma. Sadly, due to misinformation that typically dates back to Biblical teachings, many Christians consider suicide to be an unforgivable sin. But demonizing suicide is outdated and ignores the real cause: mental illness.

It’s time for religious communities to play a pivotal role in addressing this nation’s mental health crisis and many are rising to the challenge. Congregation by congregation, attitudes are evolving.

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Preventing Depression in Vulnerable Youth: To Prevent Suicides, We Need to Do More

In order to reverse the trend in youth and adolescent suicide rates, we need to implement effective interventions to prevent depression. Though that remains a challenge for the population as a whole, there are vulnerable subgroups – including socioeconomically disadvantaged, sexual minority, and racial and ethnic minority youth – for whom it is not clear that common preventive interventions are effective. There is a reason we don’t know this: we’re not doing enough to find out.

Last week, Dr. Donna Holland Barnes discussed the horrific upward trend of suicide rates among very young Black males, ages 5-11. We know that one of the key strategies in preventing youth depression and depression symptoms–often precursors to suicidal ideation–is to use early interventions that help to develop resilience, coping and communication skills, and capacity for emotional expression. Dr. Barnes notes that there are some excellent programs for introducing coping mechanisms but, unfortunately, funding and access limit their implementation in schools.

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