Suicide Is a Pervasive Problem
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10 to 24 year-olds in the United States, behind a broader category of unintentional fatalities (e.g. auto collisions, drug overdoses, accidental gunshots). The story is similar for Texas youth; the CDC recently reported that nearly 1 in 8 Texas high school students attempted suicide in 2017, highlighting just how common these mental health challenges are.
Suicide Impacts Our Schools
Although many are quick to blame external or interpersonal factors as the catalyst for suicide among students (bullying, academic stress, disciplinary issues), suicide is more often rooted in personal, emotional crisis. Extreme emotional or psychological pain; the belief that one’s situation will not improve; desires of escapism – these have all been routinely cited as the overarching reasons by those who attempted suicide.
With nearly 80 percent of the approximately 5 million students suffering from suicidal symptoms unable to receive counseling or medication, it’s no surprise that rates of attempts continue to rise. It’s not a simple issue to tackle, either. Most teachers, school counselors, school nurses, and administrators all lack the appropriate training and tools to spot the signs and trends. And even with training, isolating one high-risk student out of hundreds or thousands is a difficult ask. Without state and federal provisions to address the systematic causes of suicidal behavior –funding, evidenced-based programs, mandates to prioritize mental health support – improvement is unlikely.
A student’s welfare reflects on their school as much as it does on their parents or guardians. Students in crisis often perform worse and participate less. It’s worth noting that suicides and attempts affect the student body at large: every time someone harms themselves seriously, a district performs damage control, over-extending resources into forums, speakers, presentations, and so on. Intervention not only mitigates risk, it protects time, money, and resources.
The Tides Are Changing
States and cities all across the U.S. are now taking notice, in no small part due to the continued epidemic of mass gun violence:
∙ In January, Virginia passed HB1729, requiring that every school counselor spend a minimum of 80 percent of their staff time directly counseling students in individual or group settings
∙ In April, Florida implemented the controversial SB 7030, which finances armed safety officers in its schools
∙ In June, Texas put forth Senate Bill 11, which implements multi-hazard emergency operation protocols and screenings for potential student threats, and Rep. Four Price’s HB 18, 19, 1070, which provides educators with mental health training for times of crisis
In our home city of Austin, Texas, our district leadership is making great strides to combat this issue. Under the guidance of Tracy Spinner, Director of Comprehensive Health and Mental Health, Austin ISD has made considerable progress in expanding behavioral health resources across its campuses. Thanks to a $2.1M grant, Austin ISD has set-up on-site clinics in 24 of its elementary schools, many of which are zoned in socioeconomically-limited and culturally-diverse areas.
As the call for behavioral health care sounds nationwide, many districts are now looking for help on how best to take advantage of the increased funding.
What Televero Is Doing to Combat This Problem
At Televero, we offer custom behavioral health programs for student health and welfare. With our turnkey tele-behavioral health solutions, we equip schools with the tools they need for suicide prevention, intervention, and follow-up care. As part of our crisis support triage model, we provide school nurses, counselors, and administrators on-demand on-campus access to behavioral health screenings and psychiatric evaluations to avoid the expensive ED visit and the traumatic experience of the student riding at the back a police car to the ED. Post-crisis, students receive access to ongoing care programs through scheduled weekly or monthly follow-up visits with the same licensed therapists and counselors.
We’re passionate about making a difference in student health and welfare, and through a partnership with your school, we can strengthen your resources in this fight. In this Suicide Prevention Week, we ask that you share your story with us and join us in a call to action and compassion in tackling this issue head-on.