Blog 2 in a series of 4 | Read complete series
“Even the weakest and most vulnerable…are masterpieces of God’s creation, made in his own image, destined to live forever, and deserving of the utmost reverence and respect.” Pope Francis
As much as we might not enjoy discussing it, suicide is affecting young people at an alarming rate. The 2015 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that 8.6% of youth across the nation in grades 9-12 reported a suicide attempt in the last 12 months. Girls in this age range are twice as likely to make a suicide attempt. We should be concerned by these numbers and consider them a wakeup call. (US Department of Health and Human Services/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
Bullying and cyberbullying are issues which particularly affect high school students, and can take a heavy toll on their mental health. Victims of bullying might feel alone, hopeless, and unwanted, thus contributing to a greater risk of suicide.
Bullying, cyberbullying, and being bystander to incidences of bullying all diminish the dignity of the human person. We are called to respect one another and care of one another, as we are all made in God’s image and likeness. Bullying contradicts this idea that every person’s life is to be protected and valued.
In order to prevent suicides among high school students, it is important that we are aware of the several factors which put one at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, or a suicide attempt. Young people with mental disorders, anxiety disorders, or other mood disorders are at a greater risk of attempting suicide than those without.
Should a high school student be expressing signs or feelings of depression or anxiety, encourage him or her to seek help. Bullying and cyberbullying present risks as well, due to the sense of hopelessness and isolation which can be caused by such treatment.
Another risk is exposure to others who have died by suicide, whether in one’s own personal experience, or in the media. A popular example of this has been in the recent Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, which many argued romanticized suicide, rather than made efforts to prevent it.
It is imperative that we recognize warning signs in high school students and take them seriously. It can be easy to put down or look beyond these warning signs, as teenagers are stereotypically labeled as moody or emotional. But, in order for us to truly promote a culture of life an embrace the dignity of each and every person, it is necessary that we listen to young people with empathy and understanding.
Should you feel concerned about friend or a loved one who may be in need of help, there are several resources available to aid them in rediscovering their own human dignity. Students should reach out to a trusted adult, such as a teacher or school counselor to find out how to best handle the situation.
If you are in need of immediate help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)