Suicidal Risk and Prevention in Children and Adolescents: What to do about it? (Part 1 of 3)

This week our guest post comes from nationally certified school psychologist Jason Basinger. Jason is currently part of the Trauma Team for the Utah Education Association, is a board member for the Utah Association of School Psychologists, and serves on the Utah Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition. This blog post is the first of a special 3 part series that will review the risk and protective factors associated with suicidality.

Suicidal Risk and Prevention in Children and Adolescents: What to do about it? (Part 1 of 3)  by Jason Basinger

When I was 16 years old my high school experienced three student deaths in one weekend—one by suicide on a Friday and two by car accident the next day. These tragedies left a somber mood for the remainder of the school year. I continue to reflect on these incidents, although the suicide has been more difficult to reconcile in my mind. Suicide often has little explanation and is complex. Often people want a sole reason for death by suicide, only it is not that simple. Individuals die by suicide for multiple reasons that are often not articulated. 
Suicide—the act of killing oneself intentionally—is the second leading cause of death for adolescents in the United States (Byars, 2020; Erps, 2020; Schlaugbaum, 2020). Among teenagers, death by suicide is more common than death by homicide, cancer, or heart disease, and is only second to accidental deaths which include car accidents. Suicidality—which includes thoughts, planning, and attempts—is likely to begin during early adolescence and is more common among young people with other mental health concerns (van Vuuren, 2020; Iorfino, 2017). Suicidality occurs earlier than parents might think, with one study finding that, in the past year children ages 9-10 had approximately 8% suicidal ideation or thoughts, 1% suicidal plans, and 1% suicidal attempts (Janiri, 2020). Research also shows that early adolescence is often when individuals will have their first experience with suicidal thoughts and behaviors (van Vuuren, 2020).
I realize that suicide is a sensitive subject and I have taken care in the way that information is presented. Anyone who has been or known someone who has been suicidal knows that it is an emotionally charged subject. I apologize in advance for anything I have written that is inconsiderate. My intent is that each of the following blogs help facilitate a conversation around a topic that is often stigmatized and does not receive enough attention. 
This blog post is the first of 3-parts and will review the risk and protective factors associated with suicidality. While the following is not a comprehensive literature review, it is meant to provide context and understanding for parents and teachers of children and teenagers. National Suicide Prevention Week is September 6th through 12th and World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10th makes these posts a timely way to learn about suicidality and how we might prevent child and teen deaths by suicide.

Jason BasingerAbout the Author

Jason Basinger is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist in Salt Lake City School District. He is currently part of the Trauma Team for the Utah Education Association, is a board member for the Utah Association of School Psychologists and serves on the Utah Youth Suicide Prevention Coalition. He enjoys playing and watching sports with his family, plays guitar, and loves running. He may be contacted at jason.basinger@gmail.com or on Twitter @jason_basinger.
**National Suicide Prevention Week is September 6-12, 2020 and World Suicide Prevention Day is September 10, 2020**
The following are good resources and organizations that promote youth suicide prevention:
If you or someone you know is suicidal, get help immediately via 911, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK or the Crisis Text Line (text “HOME” to 741741).
References
  • Byars, J., Graybill, E., Wellons, Q., & Harper, L. (2020). Monitoring social media and technology use to prevent youth suicide and school violence. Contemporary School Psychology.
  • Erps, K. H., Ochs, S., & Myers, C. L. (2020). School psychologists and suicide risk assessment: Role perception and competency. Psychology in the Schools. 
  • Iorfino, F., Davenport, T. A., Ospina-Pinillos, L., Hermens, D. F., Cross, S., Burns, J., & Hickie, I. B. (2017). Using new and emerging technologies to identify and respond to suicidality among help-seeking young people: A cross-sectional study. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 19(7), 62–75.
  • Janiri, D., Doucet, G. E., Pompili, M., Sani, G., Luna, B., Brent, D. A., & Frangou, S. (2020). Risk and protective factors for childhood suicidality: A US population-based study. The Lancet Psychiatry, 7(4), 317–326.
  • Schlagbaum, P., Ruch, D. A., Tissue, J. L., Sheftall, A. H., & Bridge, J. A. (2020). Depressed mood prior to death: Implications for precipitating factors of youth suicide. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention. 
  • van Vuuren, C. L., van der Wal, M. F., Cuijpers, P., & Chinapaw, M. J. M. (2020). Are suicidal thoughts and behaviors a temporary phenomenon in early adolescence? Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention. 

Watch Jason Basinger’s Webinar

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“Mindfulness in Schools: Strategies for Promoting Mental Wellness in a COVID Environment”
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