Although the following signs may help to identify when a student is in danger, the list is not comprehensive. Many times, these signs just mimic typical teenage behaviors. How do we know if these signs are just “teen things,” or if they are something else? Experts say that if the signs are persisting over a period of time, several of the signs appear at the same time, and if the behavior is “out of character” for the young person as we know him/her, then close attention is warranted.
As educators, let’s be alert to spot students who talk about suicide, threaten suicide, or call suicide crisis lines. People showing these signs are 30 times more likely than average to kill themselves. We need to take suicide threats seriously.
When we hear expressions like: “I’d be better off dead,” “I won’t be bothering you much longer,” ”You’ll be better off without me around,” “I hate my life,” “I am going to kill myself,” or other expressions of hopelessness and helplessness, pay attention. When he/she has had previous suicide attempts, displays daring or risk-taking behavior, changes personality suddenly, shows signs of depression, gives away prized possessions, lacks interest in future plans, or displays other non verbal signs (text messages, social networks, etc.), it is time to be alert and ready to contact professional help on their behalf.
“13 Reasons Why” is a controversial series that inspires teens to have a conversation about this important topic. It can also inspire us as educators to understand and help young people cope when struggling with their lives. Tell your students there are more than 200 reasons to live. Their life doesn’t have to end like the main character of the series, despite what happened to her and around her. There is always hope. We have a better future in this life and beyond.
Golden, R. N., & Peterson, F. L. (2010). The truth about illness and disease. New York: Facts On File