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Suicidal Ideations and Teenage Students

written by: Finn Orfano • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 9/11/2012

If you teach teenagers stop and read this article. Learn how suicidal ideations affect some teenagers inside and outside of the classroom. Learn some characteristic signs and how to offer help as a mandated reporter.

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    According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2004, “suicide was the third leading cause of death among youth, ages 10-24 years, in the United States." The good news is that, suicide sometimes can be prevented. Educate yourself on high-risk mental health symptomologies such as suicidal ideations if you are an educator, a counselor, a parent, a coach or have any role with the teenager population.

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    Suicidal Ideations

    Suicidal Ideations describe thoughts an individual has of ending their own life. These ideations can vary from the specific, such as an individual having a plan of action, to an individual reporting an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness. Because one cannot be sure of the seriousness behind another person’s thought pattern, measures must be made to help the student who is showing any sign of distress or changes in behavior. Learning what to look for is the first step in prevention.

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    Common “Red-Flags"

    Students that are experiencing suicidal thoughts may display warning signs or “red-flags," which may aid a teacher or a counselor in recognition. These “red-flags" are to act as a general guide; they are in no way definite examples of a person experiencing suicidal ideation and should not be taken literally. Doing so could risk over-looking students who may not display these behaviors listed, but are still in need of help.

    • Has recently experienced a traumatic event
    • Isolates themselves from the rest of the class
    • Gives away possessions
    • Shares with others their suicidal thoughts
    • Has a noticeable change in mental health status
    • Changes in grades or outlook on school towards the negative
    • Begins to use drugs and/or alcohol or use increases
    • Dropping out of after-school activities
    • Few friends, if any, outside of class

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    What to Do?

    Mandated reporters such as teachers and counselors should educate themselves on their state laws regarding their legal obligations. Referrals will probably need to be made to a Behavioral Health agency for a full evaluation to help determine the students risk to self. Help for the student should come swiftly and can come in many different forms some of which are individual and group psychotherapy, psychotropic therapy, and local support groups. Learn what is available in your area.

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    A Classroom Concern

    Experiencing suicidal ideations or having thoughts of suicide, like many mental health symptomologies could create a major problem in the classroom. As with noted examples above, if a student is having difficulty with their mental health status, their outlook and grades in school may suffer. In addition, suicidal ideation comes the serious risk of harm to self. Education on this topic puts teachers, parents, and counselors at a great advantage in offing help to the student. Although there may be many explanations as to why teenagers behave a certain way, mental health conditions should not be overlooked.

Looking Deeper Into Issues Many Teenage Students Face

In this series you will find information on various teenage student issues that may cause barriers to learning in the classroom.
  1. Looking Deeper into Typical Teenage Behavioral Issues Students Face
  2. Signs of Domestic Violence in the Classroom
  3. Teens and Drug Use Impact on Learning
  4. Teens with Eating Disorders: A Classroom Concern
  5. Suicidal Ideations and Teenage Students

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