The Los Alamos Public Schools’ Prevention Program uses evidence-based programs and strategies to build protective factors and prevent harm to children, including self-harm and suicide. Prevention is an important component of the Healthy Schools Initiative, which focuses on supporting student and staff well-being.
Suicide risk is a national concern and is not localized to Los Alamos. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 5 children will face a mental health challenge each year. The 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey reported that nationwide, 17.2 percent of high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. 13.6 percent had made a plan and 7.4 percent had tried to take their own lives.
One goal of the prevention program is to change the conversation from suicide to suicide prevention. While suicide is a tough topic to discuss, each of us can play a part in breaking the stigma that surrounds it. First steps are to know the signs, start the conversation, and become familiar with the available resources.
Knowing the Possible Warning Signs
- Talking about or making plans for suicide
- Expressing hopelessness about the future
- Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
- Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
- Withdrawal from or changing in social connections/situations
- Changes in sleep (increased or decreased)
- Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
- Recent increased agitation or irritability
More information can be found here: https://www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org/healthcare-professionalshttps://www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org/healthcare-professionals
Starting the Conversation
Discussing mental health challenges, especially suicide, can be scary and overwhelming. Start by checking in regularly with family, friends and coworkers. Take a moment to unplug and make a connection in person. Give someone the gift of your complete attention. Talk to your friends about how you’re feeling. Reach out to people who you think may be struggling. Instead of simply asking, “How are you?”, take the time to ask curious questions like:
- “How are you between 1 and 10?”
- “What would make your number higher?”
- “Have you felt like this before?”
- “What has worked well in the past?” or
- “How can I help?”
Learning About and Accessing Resources
JJAB coordinates free Youth Mental Health First Aid classes that teach adults about common mental health challenges, how to recognize the signs of distress and when to connect youth with helpful resources and support. These classes offer opportunities to practice how to approach sensitive topics in a clear and caring way. They dispel myths about the nature of mental illness and how to respond effectively.
The next two Youth Mental Health First Aid classes are scheduled for Oct. 12 and 26. To register for one of these classes, contact Andrea Cunningham at email@example.com.
After taking this training, one participant shared, “The Youth Mental Health First Aid class has helped me to recognize specific behaviors and to be proactive in helping our students. It has also given me the tools to find the right path to get help in a crisis situation. This class was worth every second of my time and energy!”
Mental Health First Aid training for adults is available to LANL employees through the Ombuds Office. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (505) 665-2837 for more information.
LAPS School Counselor Contact Info:
- Aspen – Kim Pulliam – 663-2275
- Barranca – Alyssa Romero – 663-2730
- Chamisa – Michaelangelo Lobato – 663-2470
- Mountain – Jennifer Schmierer – 663-2325
- Pinon – Yvette Byers – 663-2680
- LAMS – Jenn Neil, Scott Gramer – 663-2375
- Topper Freshman Academy – Michelle Harrison – 663-2537
- LAHS – Cindy Black, Cristin Haake – 663-2510
Online Resources include:
- Los Alamos Mental Health Access Project: https://losalamosmentalhealth.org/
- National Alliance on Mental Illness’ “Cure Stigma” campaign: https://www.curestigma.org/
- Suicide Prevention Lifeline: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
- National Association of School Psychologists: https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/preventing-youth-suicide-tips-for-parents-and-educators
Phone and Text Crisis Lines:
- 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
- Dial 911 for emergencies
If someone you know is talking or acting in a way that makes you think they might attempt suicide, it is important to stay with them and to assure their safety by contacting help immediately through one of the resources above.
It’s time to break the stigma of talking about mental health and suicide. The LAPS Healthy Schools Initiative is committed to working with the community to increase awareness, to build life skills, and to help raise competent and confident youth.