LAHS Student Leaders Target Teen Suicide

The LAHS RAPS Leadership Team. Courtesy photo
 
Members of LAHS Natural Helpers and RAPS Leadership team Oct. 3 presenting to the Community Health Council. Courtesy photo
 
By BONNIE GORDON
Los Alamos Daily Post
bjgordon@ladailypost.com

The Los Alamos High School Risk and Resiliency Assessment Project for Students (RAPS) Team Leaders and Natural Helpers led a Community Conversation to address the signs of sadness, self-harm and suicide in youth, Sept. 24 at UNM-Los Alamos and gave a presentation Oct. 3 to the Los Alamos Community Health Council.

“The Community Conversation was designed to inform parents and community members about mental health concerns and offer practical tips and an opportunity for solution focused discussion about strategies and resources,” Healthy Schools Initiative Program Coordinator Kristine Coblentz told the Los Alamos Daily Post.

The CHC presentation included scientific data, safety tips, protective factors, a summary of Los Alamos counseling staff resiliency activities and a demonstration of effective helping skills, Coblentz said. They handed out a resource sheet detailing suicide myths vs. facts, warning signs and behaviors, and ways to reach out for help including the Say Something Anonymous App, www.saysomething.net/ anonymous reporting app.

The information was welcomed with great interest by CHC members since behavioral health is one of the priorities of the Health Council, she said. The Council is coordinated by Deni Fell of the Los Alamos County Social Services Department.

“These student leadership groups are both interested in learning more about emerging issues, supporting their peers and making positive changes in their communities,” Coblentz said. “This is the most effective youth leadership development program I’ve ever worked with. Students learn to analyze data, organize meetings, work together and speak in public.”

This is the third year RAPS has been in existence at the LAHS.

“We want to start a team at the Middle School next year,” Coblentz said.

“It’s the first time the students have analyzed their own data,” Coblentz said.

To continue the discussion, students in LAHS health classes will be watching the recently released documentary “Screenagers the Next Chapter: Uncovering Skills for Stress Resilience”, which is about helping young people thrive in our screen and stress-filled world, Coblentz said.

LAPS staff and community members will have opportunities to see the film as well and discuss solutions for navigating the digital world and dealing with the associated challenges. Screen time’s effect on adolescent sleep and the resulting mental health effects is just one of the issues discussed in the film, Coblentz said.

A staff screening is set for 4-6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17 in the Los Alamos High School Speech Theater. Parenting University will feature the film and a discussion Saturday Oct 19 at UNM-LA. Parenting University is a collaboration between the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board (JJAB) and Los Alamos Public Schools. Parents can register at https://www.losalamosjjab.com/events.

JJAB also sponsors Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The next free class is Oct 30. Register at https://www.losalamosjjab.com/events.

“It is so important that we build skills and comfort with supporting people who are experiencing a behavioral health challenge,” Coblentz said. “If someone you know is struggling emotionally or having a hard time, you can be the difference in getting them the help they need. It’s important to take care of yourself when you are supporting someone through a difficult time, as this may stir up difficult emotions. If it does, please reach out for support for yourself. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 911.”

LAPS RAPS Community Conversation Information

Strengthening Support: Addressing the signs of sadness, self-harm, and suicide 

Know the Myths vs. Facts – helping someone through a suicidal crisis can be lifesaving

Myth #1

“If someone is really suicidal, they are probably going to kill themselves at some point no matter what you do.” 

What we know to be true:

  • Multiple studies have found that >90 percent of the most serious attempters do not go on to die by suicide
  • Most people are suicidal for a short period of time

Myth #2

“Asking a depressed person about suicide may put the idea in their head.” 

What we know to be true:

  • Asking does not suggest suicide or make it more likely
  • Open discussion is more likely to be experienced as relief than intrusion

Myth #3

“There’s no point in asking about suicidal thoughts … if someone is going to do it, they won’t tell you.” 

What we know to be true:

  • Many will tell a clinician when asked, even if they would never volunteer this info 
  • Many people give some hints/ warnings to friends or family

Myth #4

“Someone making suicidal threats won’t really do it, they are just looking for attention.” 

What we know to be true:

  • Those who talk about or express thoughts about wanting to die are at risk 
  • 80 percent of people who die by suicide give some indication or warning

Myth #5

“If you stop someone from killing themselves one way, they’ll probably find another.” 

What we know to be true:

  • Restricting access to lethal means has strong evidence as a suicide prevention strategy

Warning Signs – Key Symptoms

PSYCHOLOGICAL PAIN:  Hurt, anguish, or misery in the mind
STRESS: Feeling of being pressured or overwhelmed
AGITATION: Emotional urgency, feeling the need to take action
HOPELESS: Expectation that things will not get better no matter what 
NEGATIVE SELF-IMAGE: Disliking oneself, having feelings of low self-worth

Warning Signs – Key Behaviors

  • Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
  • Withdrawing from activities and/or isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Fatigue or agitation
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression, irritability and/or recklessness

This Information is from Columbia University and ASPYR (Alliance-building for Suicide Prevention & Youth Resilience).

To learn more about RAPS, visit https://sites.google.com/laschools.net/laps-preventionprogram/lahs-raps-leaders.

Resources:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1.800.273.(TALK)8255 or text START to 741741
  • New Mexico Crisis Line 1.855.662.7474, Warm Line 1.855-466.7100
  • Use the Say Something Anonymous App to report a concern – https://www.saysomething.net/
  • Download the app A Friend Asks from the Jason Foundation, which includes warning signs, how to help a friend, and how to get help now

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