Preventing Youth Suicide in our Schools and Community - Tips for Parents and Educators

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth between 10 and 19 years of age. However, suicide is preventable. Youth who are contemplating suicide frequently give warning signs of their distress. Parents, teachers, and friends are in a key position to pick up on these signs and get help. Most important is to never take these warning signs lightly or promise to keep them secret. When all adults and students in the school community are committed to making suicide prevention a priority—and are empowered to take the correct actions—we can help youth before they engage in behavior with irreversible consequences.

Suicide Risk Factors

Certain characteristics are associated with increased suicide risk.  These include:

  • Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse.
  • Family stress/dysfunction.
  • Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home.
  • Situational crises (i.e., traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, family violence, etc.).

Suicide Warning Signs

Many suicidal youth demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking.  These include:

  • Suicidal threats in the form of direct and indirect statements.
  • Suicide notes and plans.
  • Prior suicidal behavior.
  • Making final arrangements (e.g., making funeral arrangements, writing a will, giving away prized possessions).
  • Preoccupation with death.
  • Changes in behavior, appearance, thoughts and/or feelings.

What to Do

Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:

  • Remain calm.
  • Ask the youth directly if he or she is thinking about suicide.
  • Focus on your concern for their wellbeing and avoid being accusatory.
  • Listen.
  • Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
  • Do not judge.
  • Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
  • Remove means for self-harm.
  • Get help: Peers should not agree to keep the suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an adult, such as a parent, teacher, Readaptation Officer, School Social worker or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to the designated school mental health professional or administrator.

The Role of the School in Suicide Prevention

Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a trustful student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff to be familiar with and watchful for risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior.  The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information.  Readaptation Officer, Social Worker, School psychologists and other crisis team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide. These individuals conduct suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow up counseling and support at school.

Parental Notification and Participation

Parent notification is a vital part of suicide prevention. Parents need to be informed and actively involved in decisions regarding their child’s welfare. Even if a child is judged to be at low risk for suicidal behavior, schools will ask parents to sign a Notification of Emergency Conference form to indicate that relevant information has been provided. These notifications must be documented.  Additionally, parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have information critical to making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviors.

After a school notifies a parent of their child’s risk for suicide and provides referral information, the responsibility falls upon the parent to seek mental health assistance for their child.  Parents must:

  • Continue to take threats seriously: Follow through is important even after the child calms down or informs the parent “they didn’t mean it.”  Avoid assuming behavior is attention seeking.
  • Access school supports: If parents are uncomfortable with following through on referrals, they can give the school psychologist permission to contact the referral agency, provide referral information, and follow up on the visit.  The school can also assist in providing transportation to get the parent and child to the referral agency. 
  • Maintain communication with the school. After such an intervention, the school will also provide follow-up supports.  Your communication will be crucial to ensuring that the school is the safest, most comfortable place for your child.

Resiliency Factors

The presence of resiliency factors can lessen the potential of risk factors to lead to suicidal ideation and behaviors.  Once a child or adolescent is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends should work to build these factors in and around the youth. These include:

  • Family support and cohesion, including good communication.
  • Peer support and close social networks.
  • School and community connectedness.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
  • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution.
  • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose.
  • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.
Federal Government and Suicide Prevention among First Nation Youth

Acting On What We Know: Preventing Youth Suicide in First Nations

Suicide among First Nations youth has been occurring at an alarming rate in recent years. Statistics show an Aboriginal suicide rate two to three times higher than the non-Aboriginal rate for Canada, and within the youth age group the Aboriginal suicide rate is estimated to be five to six times higher than that of non-Aboriginal youth.

In July, 2001 a Suicide Prevention Advisory Group was jointly appointed by National Chief Matthew Coon Come of the Assembly of First Nations and former Minister of Health Allan Rock. The purpose of this Advisory Group was to review the existing research and formulate a series of practical, doable recommendations to help stem the tide of youth suicides occurring in First Nations communities across Canada.

The Advisory Group met between July 2001 and June 2002 to collaborate on this task. Through discussion, literature review and preparation of background papers, key issues were identified and recommendations generated. This report provides an examination of these issues, from basic suicide data to specific factors affecting First Nations, and based on this, presents recommendations for action.

The recommendations listed below fall into four main themes: (1) increasing knowledge about what works in suicide prevention; (2) developing more effective and integrated health care services at national, regional and local levels; (3) supporting community-driven approaches; and (4) creating strategies for building youth identity, resilience and culture.

No single approach is likely to be effective on its own. To reduce the risk of suicide, it is essential to make multi-level changes to systems that support youth, families and communities in crisis. This report sets out a concrete series of steps, some of which can be immediately initiated by government and Aboriginal organizations. It is hoped that through these recommendations a collaborative and proactive response to First Nations youth suicide prevention will emerge.

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fniah-spnia/pubs/promotion/_suicide/prev_youth-jeunes/index-eng.php

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Breakfast & Lunch program Sponsors

We would like to give a big and Warm thank you to former principal Ms Sophia Galanis, Marieline Kitchen and Louis Bernier for their unconditional support from the beginning of this program. Our thanks also go to The active and humble principal Josee Lalumiere, Vice Principal Michel Branchaud, pastor Allen Etapp, Michel Awashish, Marie Ortepi, teachers and members of the pentecostal church.

  • Maxi Chibougameau
  • Band Office (Mat. Blacksmith)
  • Michel Awashish from Church
  • Jack Otter (Suicide prevention coordinator)
  • Members of Church and volunteers (MaryAnn Ottereyes, etc.)
  • MSDC Team

In the name of God most High, we give thanks to our sponsor and our future sponsors.

If you want to sponsor or volunteer in our Youth Lunch program, please email Dr Waka Hughes at hughespierre@justedu.org

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MSDC-SCHOOL PARTNERSHIP

The Office of Readaptation and the Waswanipi MSDC/Health board has sealed a great deal of providing extra help to students in need. This is the first deal ever done within the Cree Nation between School and Health Board/MSDC.

We are very thankful to Marie Ortepie, Winnie, Ghislain, Sophie and the whole team at MSDC for the unlimited support and love for our students.

SCHOOL & COMMUNITY POTLUCK

Every Month, the Office of Readaptation and Special Ed hosts a school/community potluck at the school. The idea is to allow community’s members, parents, teachers and students to interact and to know each other better. The overall objective is to prevent and alleviate behavioral issue at our schools.

The first potluck hosted at our school was a great success with almost 600 people attending. We want to give a very warm and special appreciation to Vice Principal Emilie Deschenes for helping us making that potluck happen. Your great contribution to our school and to the Holistic Thinking for Positive Behavior is always treasured.

Saturday Lunch

Every Saturday, we host a free Lunch program at the Pentecostal church (basement) from 12 pm to 2pm.

All the kids are welcome. The menus vary from:

  • Moose Spaghetti
  • Hot dogs
  • fried rice with carrot and meat
  • Pizza
  • Potatoes and fries
  • drink
  • chicken and soup
  • etc.

 

Movie Night

We host a movie night every Friday at 7 pm with the youth at the Pentecostal Church.

Every kids are welcome. We also have a snack and drink during and after the movie.

 

Math and Spelling Tournament

We host a Math and Spelling Tournament every weeks at the Rainbow Elementary School.

We are also looking for sponsor to offer various prices to winners.

Thank you!

Start a Youth activities?

If you have an idea of a youth program that will  built our school, church and our community in Jesus, please feel free to contact Pastor Allen Etapp, or the School.

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If the Creator, God has touched your heart to support the after school program, our lunch program at church or any other project we are involved, please feel free to contact  Pastor Allan Etapp or the school and arrangement could be made to receive your donation.

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JJK Cree contact

Address for activities: 17, Cedar St.

              Waswanipi, QC, J0Y3C0

Tel: 929-800-2946

School address:  Rainbow School
Waswanipi, Quebec
J0Y 3C0
 

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