Each week one of our team members shares a Weekly Remix Round Up – an article they’ve read, a conversation they’ve participated in, etc – that lifts up a topic they’ve been reflecting on or something that sparked their interest.
Authors note: This remix includes the mention of suicide. If you or someone you know is suicidal, you can reach the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.
I was a 16-year-old high school senior the first time I made a suicide plan. I immediately drove to my mom’s office to tell her, and she took me to my therapist. I was lucky to already have a therapist and to have a parent who worked in, and therefore knew how to navigate, the medical field. That same year, I called a suicide hotline for a friend. I remember pulling out the white pages to look up the number.
Not everyone has the connections of family, peer, or mental health professional support. Far too often, people find themselves alone and without resources in times of need or they end up calling in law enforcement for a mental health crisis. The launch last week of 9-8-8 as a national suicide hotline number has the potential to be life changing, particularly for teens.
Data released by the CDC in March showed that over the last year, 44% of young people reported persistent sadness and nearly 1 in 5 young people had seriously considered suicide. Teen mental health has been an increasing concern for years and was exacerbated by the disconnectedness of the pandemic.
9-8-8 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline gives young people, their peers, their families, and adults who work with them a resource to connect with free, confidential support. It is a monumental first step, but there is much work left to be done:
Concerns have been raised that the new entity isn’t fully staffed and there are fears callers will be put on hold or get a busy signal
Local communities may not be prepared for the full response needed to the mental health concerns that are raised.
Questions have been raised about how fully trained the team is in supporting young people with disabilities, such as autism.
We applud the launch of 9-8-8. We encourage all youth serving organizations to take advantage of the materials available to help promote it. And, we encourage communities and organizations to remember that supports for young people are only as strong as our ability to understand and use those tools together. Here are some suggestions for those working with young people to help leverage 9-8-8:
Talk with each other about the young people you serve
Partner with schools to engage school based mental health staff or with local mental health agencies
Consider how Youth Mental Health First Aide training might help support the young people you serve
Know when and how to say something if a young person seems to have sudden behavior change
Take care of your own mental health needs so you are in a place where you can best support the students you serve
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