Teen Suicide. Mercer County school superintendents are concerned (see Teen Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Call to Action by Mercer County Superintendents) and, as County Executive Brian Hughes said in his MercerMe opinion piece, Preventing Suicide: Education and Awareness Can Save Lives, following a suicide, “the response must be sensitive, informed, and respectful. It must facilitate dialogue instead of conjecture; it must address blame and stigma; and it must create a foundation for hope, healing, and safety for all affected.” Our communities are tasked with knowing and doing more — to save our young people. But, where to go and what to do may not always be clear.
Answering both, the Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition is hosting two upcoming educational programs that are geared for educating school counselors, administrators, and mental health community agencies, but open to anyone. The Coalition hosts three programs a year and are always filled to capacity. For the first program, “Self-Injury, Risk and Protective Factors: Messaging to Youth about Healthy Living and Responding to Troubled Peers,” on Friday, February 23, 2018, a waiting list is accepting those interested as it is fully booked. The second program,“Identifying and Responding to At Risk Youth,” on Friday, April 27, 2018 is accepting registrations now.
The below is a letter to the editor from Steven Olsen, Traumatic Loss Prevention Services Coordinator with Mercer County’s Division of Mental Health, giving registration information. The time to learn and do more is now.
Jan. 25, 2018
Over the past year, Mercer County has experienced a rise in suicide deaths among all ages affecting all municipalities. We have lost many of our residents, family members and friends to hopelessness and helplessness. But suicide is preventable. Earlier this month, on Jan. 9, the superintendents of Mercer County hosted a “Call to Action” community meeting at Rider University to begin a dialogue about self-harm and suicide prevention, especially among our youth. It is estimated that approximately 700 individuals attended to learn and discuss their role in reducing this alarming trend.
Creating partnerships and raising awareness while providing systems of support and care are critical. Mercer County’s Traumatic Loss Prevention Services program has been collaborating and coordinating services with schools and community agencies with short-term and long-term strategies, the first of which needs to be identifying warning signs and removing the shame and blame associated with seeking help. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has made available a brief list below. These signs may mean that someone is at risk for suicide. Risk is greater if the behavior is new, or has increased, and if it seems related to a painful event, loss or change:
- Talking about wanting to die or kill oneself
- Looking for a way to kill oneself
- Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
- Talking about feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain
- Talking about being a burden to others
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Withdrawing or feeling isolated
- Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
- Displaying extreme mood swings
If you believe someone may be thinking about suicide:
- Ask them if they are thinking about killing themselves. (This will not put the idea into their head or make it more likely that they will attempt suicide.)
- Listen without judging and show you care.
- Stay with the person (or make sure the person is in a private, secure place with another caring person) until you can get further help.
- Remove any objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- If danger for self-harm seems imminent, call 9-1-1. Everyone has a role to play in preventing suicide. In our sphere of influence, each of us can help people navigate the struggles of life to find a sustainable sense of hope, meaning and purpose through connection and compassion.
- If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741.
The following local trainings have been coordinated with the purpose of educating parents and professionals:
- “Self-Injury, Risk and Protective Factors: Messaging to Youth about Healthy Living and Responding to Troubled Peers,” Friday, Feb. 23, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Robert Wood Johnson Health and Wellness Center, 3100 Quakerbridge Road, Mercerville, NJ 08619.
- “Identifying and Responding to At Risk Youth,” Friday, April 27, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Location TBD.
To get involved with Mercer County Traumatic Loss Coalition, contact Steven Olsen at 609-278-7924 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Monthly coalition meetings are held on the second Wednesday of each month, from 9:30 to 11 a.m., at Mobile Response and Stabilization Services, Suite 500, 3535 Quakerbridge Road, Hamilton, NJ 08619. All are welcome!
Traumatic Loss Prevention Services Coordinator
Children’s Interagency Coordinating Council Coordinator
Mercer County Department of Human Services
Division of Mental Health (rm. 225)