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Suicide Prevention Awareness: The role of social media

A woman's hand holding an iphone, with Snapchat displayed on the screen of the phone.

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. This week, we are highlighting an excerpt from an article published by The Denver Post on two recent teen suicides. Both teens attended schools in neighboring school districts.

Previous articles:

Below is a summary and excerpt from The Denver Post, written by Jennifer Brown and John Ingold

Earlier this month, two teens in neighboring school districts took their own lives. One of these young men, an eighth-grader, shot himself, and the other, a junior, jumped off a mall parking garage. Both boys posted on social media just before their deaths, panicking friends who tried to help but could not save them.

Middle-schoolers “snapped” their friend’s location and called police when they saw the 13-year-old’s post with a suicide note and a gun, but he had already pulled the trigger.

The role social media plays in teen suicide and depression is complex, says Sarah Brummett, director of the Office of Suicide Prevention at the state health department. "It connects people going through similar problems even when they aren’t close geographically, and yet, on the flip side, the filtered selfies and endless posts of others having fun can plummet teens’ self-esteem."

Regardless, social media “is the main outlet that this generation has grown up with” and it’s how they “communicate their deepest thoughts and feelings,” says Stephanie Ratner, a Mental Health Center of Denver therapist. She teaches kids how to respond when someone they know is “testing the waters to see if anyone cares.”

Take it seriously, Ratner says. “Don’t assume they are doing it just for attention.” Often the best response is, “I’m really concerned. I’m going to message you.”

Just as important, Ratner tells teens not to try to solve it on their own and instead to involve their parents, their friend’s parents, a teacher, a principal or 911. She encourages parents to watch the shows their teens are watching, monitor their social media accounts and ask more questions.

“Kids are turning to social media because they don’t feel like they have a safe, supportive person to tell their deepest fears,” Ratner says. “The biggest thing for adults is to not shame kids for feeling this way. It’s hard being a teen. It’s hard growing up with social media. A lot more kids have suicidal thoughts than we realize. We’re just not asking the right questions.”

Social media can be valuable when kids post their plans online — and it gives others a chance to help, said Julie Cerel, a University of Kentucky professor, licensed psychologist and president of the American Association of Suicidology.

However, kids who have friends who attempted or died by suicide are more inclined to have their own suicidal ideation, she said. And it doesn’t always have to be a close friend — sometimes the kids most at risk are those who know the teen more peripherally but thought of themselves as similar.

“I think it’s because starting in early adolescence, kids look to their peers much more than their families for support and acceptance,” Cerel says. “The jarring experience of losing a peer to suicide changes their whole world view.”

Social media can expand these risks. First, it can be a vehicle for often anonymous bullying, worsening a teen’s mental health. But also, when a teen posts about suicide or suicidal thoughts on social media, it can potentially reinforce the notion that suicide is a way to deal with psychological pain, she says.

Continue reading on The Denver Post website



September 21, 2017 | By CSilberman | Category: Mental Health, Prevention and School Culture, Mental Health Intervention

District News

graduates standing in line outside, smiling

DOUGLAS COUNTY – Graduation rates in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) continue to climb. Data released today by the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) shows the on-time, four-year graduation rate is now 90.4 percent.

DCSD students also made an impressive showing at graduation. The class of 2017 earned more than $82 million in scholarships.

DCSD has one of the highest graduation rates in the Denver metro area. According to CDE, DCSD graduation rates have risen steadily from 81.9 percent in 2009 to 90.4 percent in 2017.

Five female students standing on stage smiling and laughing at the awards ceremony

The top two-percent of female athletes in Douglas County School District (DCSD) were honored at the annual Girls and Women in Sports Luncheon last week at Chaparral High School. This year represented the 30th national celebration of Girls and Women in Sports Day, created to encourage and promote the participation of girls in athletics. The girls who were honored were selected by their school’s coaches, athletic directors and principals for their outstanding achievements.

Superintendent Search text based logo

Working through the recent winter break, the Douglas County School District Board of Education has kicked off its search for DCSD’s next permanent superintendent. Following a thorough vetting of potential search firms, Ray & Associates (no relation to Board Director David Ray) has been hired to conduct the national search. The cost of the firm, excluding travel expenses, is $40,000. The money will come from the school board's budget, which is used for costs such as legal expenses and conferences.