Suicide Prevention

The Pine Ridge Native Reservation has suffered a horrible loss. Santana Janis 12 years old has taken her life along with nine other people within four months. In those four months there has been at least 103 attempts by people ages 12–24.

Suicide in youth is a very serious problem not only on the Reservation but across the country. It is the third largest cause of death in youth in the United States between the ages of 15–23. We need to take action and spread awareness.

I was drawn to this issue because, I have had people in my life that have been so unhappy that they want to take their own lives. While doing this article I have learned that is the same for a lot of people.

I started researching people and organizations who are trying to make a difference and bring awareness to this epidemic of youth suicide. I was reading about depression and suicide on the Gundersen Health System website and it talked about signs you may see in your teen if they are depressed. Some signs you may see are saying they want to kill themselves, saying that people in their lives would be better off without them, and giving away their personal possessions. It’s good that they have that resources for parents and I think it can make a change.

September 2016 was National Suicide Prevention month. Suicide Prevention Lifeline is providing information and access for people who are looking for help and parents who need to know more. The Light for Life Foundation lnt’l/ Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program is also spreading awareness by teaching people to become advocates for suicide prevention. These are all great organizations that you can use to get more information on how you can help and make a difference. By becoming an advocate you could save a life.

Lynn Keane was featured on Ted Talk about raising awareness for suicide prevention. She talked about her son Daniel who took his life in 2009. She has been trying to raise awareness since then and has written a book titled Give Sorrow Words about her family’s story and educating yourself.

I spoke with Tracey Benton who is a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) but works as an in-home therapist. I asked her about her job and the ways she tries to prevent suicide in youth.

I started the interview by asking her why she chose her profession. Her response was that she wanted to work with real people, not sit in a desk all day. She wanted to be a positive force in the world. The clients Tracy sees are mostly kids and their families. The families usually have low income and significant mental health issues.

During some of her visits she runs into challenges. She has been assaulted, and her life has been threatened. Other challenges in her career that come up often are that the laws are always changing and limiting what she can do.

We talked about what she does to help clients with mental health issues. She said that an important part of the job is always to be reading new research trying to find the most effective way to help people.

I asked Tracy if she considers herself a changemaker. She said, “Yes definitely I feel like have changed many people’s lives.”

I questioned her about her methods with treating clients that have suicidal thoughts. When working with teens you have to ask that question a lot. Are you having suicidal thoughts? Most of them are suicidal, and it’s usually due to stress. Stress is a huge part of depression. The ways she treats them are putting them on medications or hospitalizations. It really depends on the issues they have, but, most of the time, it is the best to change their environment.

In conclusion, there are many ways to prevent suicidal acts of youth. One of the most effective ways I found is to let them know that they are cared about.

This story is part of a new Storytelling for Changemakers program for Changemaker Schools activated in partnership with Ashoka’s Youth Venture and Start Empathy.

Individual views expressed in this blog are from individual students at YIHS and not representative of Ashoka, Start Empathy, or Youth Venture.