Teacher sitting in the bleachers of a gym

Teachers: Recognize the warning signs of suicide

Indiana has the nation’s highest rate of students who have contemplated suicide and the second highest rate of high school students attempting suicide. The statistics are alarming, and addressing this health crisis requires all of us—from parents to teenagers to teachers—to work together.

Teachers can spot the signs of suicide

“We’re all here to help others get through tough times,” said local educator Dave Petersohn.

In the classroom setting, that means having informed and knowledgeable educators who can identify the warning signs for suicide and help connect students who exhibit these signs with the resources and help they need.

Adolescents experience many life stressors as they transition from child to adulthood, and therefore, it isn’t always easy to differentiate between depression or suicidal intention and normal teenage moodiness.

Making things even more complicated, suicidal teens do not necessarily appear sad, nor will they always withdraw from others. For some, symptoms of irritability, stress, aggression, and rage are more prominent.

Common warning signs that you may notice as an educator:

  • Recent disappointment or rejection (e.g., Not making a school sports team or musical group.)
  • Sudden decline or improvement in academic performance (e.g. Failing/acing a test when they normally fail/ace that particular subject or expelled from school)
  • Change in interaction with friends
  • Feeling embarrassed or humiliated in front of peers
  • Victim of assault or bullying
  • Unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts
  • Talking, reading, or writing about death or suicide (Examples: Writing in school assignments, writing on school property, writing or drawing about death on notebooks etc.)
  • Increased or inappropriate anger or rage (Example: Lashing out at classmates)

Simply put, warning signs come in many forms, so it is important to take all situations seriously as an educator. Any warning sign is worth asking about – you could save a student’s life.

Depression affects everyone

“Depression or thoughts of suicide aren’t just found in certain age groups, economic status or even gender,” said Petersohn. “They can affect anyone, and that is why we are all responsible for watching out for each other.”

If a student is experiencing a mental health crisis or medical emergency, call toll-free at 800.273.8255. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, any time 24/7. At school and not sure what to do or whom to talk to? Refer to your school’s suicide policy.