According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. In 2021, Louisiana youth accounted for nearly 5,000 suicide deaths. Martin Luther King High School (MLK) recognizes the urgency to address this public health problem and is empowering students and adults with the necessary tools to make suicide prevention a top priority.
“Starting at orientation, we address mental health and behavioral health to ensure that our students and families know that we are here for their success, their safety and their overall well-being,” said Felice Brightman, High School Counselor at MLK.
The school hosts monthly assemblies and events throughout the year where counselors speak to students about suicide prevention tips and resources that are available to them. “We make sure that our students are comfortable enough to talk to us about their issues. If it’s something that isn’t in our purview, we’ll direct them to the appropriate person or resource,” Brightman added.
Additionally, all counselors are required to participate in monthly social work meetings across the city as part of their Continuing Education Unit (CEU). There counselors learn about new treatments and resources to assist students and their families.
Parent liaisons are also in place to equip parents with the tools and education needed to recognize the signs and risk factors of suicide and understand how to address the problems when they arise.
Some suicide risk factors include mental illness such as depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse; family stress and dysfunction, environmental risks, including the presence of a firearm in the home; and situational crises such as traumatic death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse and family violence. When dealing with an individual who may be suicidal, it is important to focus on the person’s well-being, listen, and reassure them that there is help available.
“Creating Hope Through Action,” is the Triennial Theme for World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. According to the World Health Organization, this theme serves as a call to action to remember that there is an alternative to suicide.
Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) launched the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline — the new 3-digit number to replace the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to make it easier for people to receive assistance during a mental health crisis.