The Year 2006 has started with violence
in the news. Violence toward self is not as widely reported, but is
ever present. Schools and those who work daily with young people need
to increase vigilance in seeing and helping those who are hurting so
much that suicide seems to be a good choice.
In Florida a student pointed a
pellet pistol at a police officer and effected his own death in what
is now called, "Suicide by Cop."
Much less air and press time was given to a number
of other school students who died in a brief
two week period in January and February. Here are a few that made at
least local news:
January 22, 2006 was a
Sunday night that found a group of high school students in
Massachusetts gathered in back of a middle school for an informal
party of using alcohol and prescription drugs known as K-pins. The
next day one of the party was hospitalized and another failed to show
up for school. Someone called 911 from his parents home Monday
afternoon and reported that he had shot and killed himself. He was
extremely popular and a talented athlete. Everyone in the community
was shaken. The school provided grief counseling to over 400 students
in the days following the incident. A crackdown on drug trafficking in
the school has resulted in the arrests of an 18 and a 16 year-old
On January 30, 2006 a 16
year-old junior exited the bus and entered his high school in
Montana as he had done everyday. This day, however, he went
immediately to the restroom where his Principal was standing just
outside the door. With no sign of hesitation, he entered the restroom.
Moments later the Principal was startled by a loud gunshot from inside
the restroom. He rushed in and found his student dead of a single
self-inflicted gunshot wound. The school was placed in "lock-down"
status. Police and emergency responders poured into the school. Shock,
disbelief and concern swept the school and the entire community.
Two days later on February 1,
in Ohio, a 17 year-old junior walked into a restroom shortly
after arriving at school and hanged himself. A fellow student entered
the restroom and found the body of his classmate. The school was
placed in “lock down” while paramedics worked on the young man and
eventually took him away. The school brought in its Emergency Response
Intervention Team to provide counseling services as needed. The
student was reported be well liked and friendly.
A week later on February 8,
in another community in Ohio, a 10 year-old took his own life
with a single gunshot. While the suicide happened at home, the death
has touched the other students in the area. The school system has
responded with their Crisis Intervention Team to meet the needs of the
It is important to note that the
schools involved all responded quickly and efficiently with the
Plans and Teams working well. Whenever a suicide happens, it is
critical that such steps take place in a very measured fashion. Not
only do young people need assistance in handling loss of a friend or
classmate, they are in fact at risk of committing “copycat” events.
These schools are to praised for handling the aftermath well.
There is still one question that
is expressed, or at least thought, during such events: "Why didn't
we see it coming?"
Suicide is currently the
third leading cause of death in the group of 15-24
People have committed suicide in
every era and in every collective group of the human experience. The
reasons and methods vary as much as people vary. According to the
Centers for Disease Control, suicide is currently the third leading
cause of death in the group of 15-24 year-olds.
rate of youth suicides has tripled since the 1950s, and today, suicide
is the third leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds. In 1998,
more teenagers and young adults died of suicide than from cancer,
heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and
chronic lung disease combined.”
(CDC Injury Fact Book 2001-2002.)
United States alone accounts for about 84 suicides per day.
With all this history and these statistics it would seem that this
subject would be so common place that everyone would know about it,
recognize its warning signs and take preventive measures. Sadly this
simply is not true. The brief accounts of suicides listed above are
moving but are not even the tip of the iceberg “Suicide.” Further
examination of just this short 2-3 weeks in mid-winter reveals many
more when including university students and international students.
Another issue surfaced when collecting this data, under-reporting and
not reporting suicides. Many news media, both print and broadcast, as
policy do not report youth suicides out of respect for the families.
This is admirable. The problem it causes is that failing to report
leaves most people believing that suicide is not as bad as cancer,
AIDS, strokes and so on. There are even more suicides when moving
outside the group called “youth” but the focus of this article is
Again the question is posed,
"Why didn't we see it coming?"
Students, unlike other
segments of our society, are surrounding daily by professional, caring
people. Most school personnel have attended classes on “Suicide
Prevention.” So, why do so many continue to fall through the cracks
and take that ultimate permanent solution to whatever problems were
facing them? The answer to that question is a lack of an organized
approach. Just knowing warning signs is not enough. Having a class on
suicide prevention still falls short. What is needed is training
combined with a an effective tool that will identify the signs and
provide intervention. This program would need to implemented with the
full weight of education community. Just as that community has risen
to the occasion to eliminate childhood diseases and student hunger, so
should it strive to prevent this social disease known as suicide. When
all the maladies listed in the CDC statement above are considered, it
should be evident that anything taking more lives than all of them
combined should addressed with the same level of commitment. We should
be able to see it coming and do something about it.
didn't we see it coming?" This statement was given national
prominence when a grieving, angry parent uttered it to the television
cameras outside Columbine High School. It has become the title of a
book that describes how it is possible to “see it coming” and
provides solutions for intervention. It was designed to stem the tide
of school violence, which meant “school shooter” in most minds. From
the outset, the authors have attempted to point out that there is very
little difference between homicide and suicide. The principle
difference is simply the direction the anger is focused. While other
agencies have done a tremendous effort in isolating certain
characteristics of past and potential school shooters, most have
failed to realize that the same traits can be used
to identify those whose intended targets
are themselves. Perhaps the biggest shortcoming of most other programs
that seek to identify such students is that the emphasis being on
homicide, only one solution is offered, that is, the legal system. It
should be readily apparent that arresting someone for being at risk of
killing themselves will do little to slow the advance of suicide into
our schools. There are viable alternatives.
Keys To Safer Schools.com
approach is to locate the interventions that are actually available
within a school’s area as well as within their budget. These are then
assembled along with critical decision points into a pre-planned
decision tree. The complete program provides for the participation of
everyone connected with the school.
Everyone becomes an observer, a
select few become certified as “assessors”
and fewer still become certified as “trainers.”
The School Board and Administrators will always be the decision
makers. However, the secret of success is making those decisions
before any student ever displays a need and having those decisions
recorded and approved. Then the "Risk
Assessment Team" can move swiftly through recognition,
intervention and after action. This program will save lives.
Remember, suicide claims more
lives every year than does cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects,
stroke, pneumonia, influenza and chronic lung disease combined.
The Keys’ program,
Assessing the Potentially Dangerous Student, may not be the
equivalent of cure for any one of these horrible conditions, but if
fully implemented it could potentially reduce this list to seven
rather than eight life claiming diseases.
If your school would be
interested in implementing this program, please contact the staff at
Keys To Safer Schools.com through their
This and many other programs are available
through Keys at
Critical Training. The principles of all Keys' Training are:
Keys has not seen it work,
it is not presented. This is not another theory, but practical
application that can be put in place immediately.
Keys never tries to force a
canned program. Every training event is designed to meet the needs
of the organization. Keys
Multi-Disciplinary Team of Subject Matter Experts can asses
needs and design a specific program.
Keys is keenly aware of
budget limitations in education. All trainings are priced well below
national norms and most provide certification as a trainer so that
the school can then provide their own training in-house.
If your school or organization is concerned about
slowing the trend to violence in today's youth, contact Key To Safer
Schools today to learn how your school can be better prepared. You may
even find how you can receive free training.
you have any comments or questions please Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.