Mental Health and Suicide Education for K-12 Schools
Our award-winning team supports the full continuum of mental health – from prevention programs to crisis response, with evidence-based solutions that educate and prioritize health for all ages.
We teach students and school staff how to identify signs of depression and suicide. We create safer, healthier workplaces that understand how mental health intersects with productivity. We help schools and communities recover after traumatic events. And so much more.
Warning Signs of Suicide
What are the warning signs of suicide? We’re glad you asked. Suicide is a serious public health issue and being able to identify and respond to the warning signs can help prevent the loss of life. Signs of suicide can be subtle or more pronounced, and include talking about wanting to die, giving away prized possessions, and expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. The warning signs of suicide are also conveyed through changes in behavior such as withdrawing from friends, increased alcohol/drug use, extreme mood swings, engaging in risky activities, and sleeping too much or too little. These changes should always be taken seriously, and learning more about suicide can give you the knowledge and confidence to safely help someone thinking about ending their life. We all have a role to play in suicide prevention.
Suicide prevention education such as Mindwise’s SOS Signs of Suicide Program teaches people how to recognize these warning signs and connect those who are struggling with the support they need. Other effective forms of suicide prevention education include expert trainings and mental health screenings. If you, a friend, or a family member exhibit any warning signs of suicide, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or contact a trained mental health professional immediately. Numerous studies have shown that callers feel less suicidal, less depressed, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking with a Lifeline counselor. Help is available, and healing is possible.
Suicide Warning Signs
Suicide can affect anyone – regardless of race, gender, social status, or age. However, suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in the U.S. for those aged 15-24. Recognizing the warning signs of suicide in youth is critical to identifying those at risk and providing the necessary support and resources.
One of the key indicators of suicide risk is suicidal ideation, which refers to thoughts of taking one’s own life. Suicidal ideation can be difficult to spot in someone else, but if you notice a friend or family member injuring themselves or frequently talking about dying, it’s likely they are struggling to manage intense inner turmoil.
Extreme shifts in personality can be another sign of distress that needs to be closely monitored, especially among children and teenagers. This may include sudden withdrawal from friends and social activities or a decrease in academic performance. Mood changes, such as prolonged sadness, irritability, or rage, can also indicate a need for support.
Other suicide warning signs in youth may include:
- Reckless behavior
- Substance abuse
- Expressing feelings of intense guilt or shame
It’s imperative to seek professional help immediately if someone you know is exhibiting one or more of these behaviors.
It’s also important to note that while warning signs may vary between individuals, risk factors for suicide in youth remain constant and include a history of mental illness, a family history of suicide, and exposure to trauma or abuse.
Additionally, creating a supportive environment that encourages youth to seek help when experiencing distress is crucial. This may include providing resources such as hotlines, behavioral health screenings, and counseling services, as well as working to reduce the stigma that can be associated with mental health concerns. Suicide is never inevitable, no matter how hopeless or trapped an individual may feel.
Warning Signs of Severe Depression
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can significantly impact an individual’s daily life and overall well-being. Suicide is never caused by just one factor, but depression and/or other mental health concerns often play a role when someone tries to end their life. Recognizing the warning signs of severe depression is crucial to identifying those in need of intervention and reducing the risk of suicide. Depression is treatable, and it is beatable.
The warning signs of depression can vary between individuals, but they often include persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, and changes in sleep or appetite. These symptoms may interfere with daily functioning and can last for weeks, months, or even years. In addition to these symptoms, individuals with severe depression may also experience physical manifestations such as fatigue, headaches, and digestive problems. Not all individuals with depression will experience all of these symptoms, and the severity and duration may vary.
Depression intervention is a core aspect of reducing depressive symptoms and may include psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Individuals should always work with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for their unique needs. Those struggling with depression should also reach out to friends and family members for support.
Ways to help someone struggling include:
- Encouraging them to talk about their feelings
- Assisting with daily tasks
- Helping schedule doctor appointments
- Avoiding judgment or criticism.
Overall, being able to recognize depression warning signs is crucial to providing necessary intervention and reducing the risk of suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, it is important to show compassion and seek professional help immediately. Remember, with proper treatment, individuals can experience significant improvement in their symptoms and overall quality of life.
How to Tell when a Teen is Suicidal
Though learning how to tell when a teen is suicidal can be challenging, it’s a necessity. As a parent or caregiver, understanding the difference between normal teen moodiness and suicidal behaviors can help save a life. Studies on mental health concerns show that early identification and intervention improve the speed of recovery, reduce symptoms to a greater extent, and increase the likelihood of staying free of the illness. Mental health screenings, such as depression screening for teens, can help identify individuals at risk that require proper care and treatment. However, these screenings are not diagnostic.
Mental health screenings contain a series of questions that help identify whether an individual should connect with a behavioral health professional. These short quizzes tend to be anonymous and function as a check-up from the neck up. Depression screening for teens may include questions about mood, behavior, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. These screenings can be conducted by healthcare professionals, teachers, and parents, or found online.
The benefits of mental health screenings for teens are significant. Many screenings offer results, recommendations, and resources immediately after completing the brief questionnaire. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) — a group of independent medical experts whose recommendations help guide doctors’ decisions —even recommended routine mental health screening for anxiety in EVERYONE aged eight to 65.
Crucially, mental health screenings should not be seen as a one-time event. Screening should be a routine part of healthcare for teens, just like regular physical exams. This can help identify changes in symptoms over time and ensure that teens receive ongoing support and care as needed. Early intervention can reduce the risk of suicide, which is a leading cause of death among teens. We all need to be just as proactive about our mental health as our physical health.
Suicide Prevention Training
Suicide prevention training prepares individuals and organizations for challenging, but manageable, situations. The trainings often provide supporting information and resources, and teach attendees to appropriately discuss mental health and suicide risks in a safe and supportive setting. Learning how to prevent suicide is the first step in reducing these crises.
Suicide intervention training is a commonly used method of suicide prevention education. This type of training teaches individuals how to recognize warning signs of suicide and how/when to intervene with someone to prevent a suicide attempt. Suicide intervention training can be particularly valuable for teachers, healthcare professionals, and individuals who work in public service. Empowering adults to confidently and safely intervene with children at risk provides youth with a broad web of diverse allies eager to offer support.
Depression education also plays a central role in suicide prevention. Depression is a significant risk factor for suicide, and training individuals to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression can help increase awareness and promote early intervention. Providing resources such as screenings and other forms of depression support for at-risk individuals can help reduce the possibility of suicide and improve their overall well-being.
Teaching teenagers and adolescents coping skills for suicidal thoughts is another effective form of suicide prevention education. Individuals who experience suicidal thoughts may benefit from learning coping skills, such as mindfulness and meditation, to manage their symptoms. If their symptoms become too overwhelming, an individual might, unfortunately, try to escape their pain via suicide. Providing resources for crisis support such as hotlines or online chat services can help those who are suffering connect to the support they need.
After undergoing suicide prevention training, you gain the skills and confidence to help save a life. By promoting these trainings and providing resources for mental health support (such as counseling or therapy) and suicidal intervention, we can work together to prevent future tragedies. Everyone can benefit from suicide prevention training and increased mental health education.