By Jenna Jay
Suicide is an equal opportunity killer that affects people of all ages, sexes and ethnicities. According to Suicide Prevention Education Awareness Knowledge (SPEAK), however, the fastest growing group for suicide is children, ages 10-14.
SPEAK is on a mission to change that statistic.
The program, part of the San Diego Unified School District’s Mental Health Resource Center, uses grant money awarded through San Diego County Mental Health Services for suicide prevention programs for youth.
During the week of Feb. 14, SPEAK members spoke to seventh-grade students at Muirlands Middle School and ninth- and 11
-graders at La Jolla High School. In support of these talks, SPEAK also gave a parent presentation on Feb. 15 in Parker Auditorium at La Jolla High School. About 30 guests showed up.
SPEAK provided La Jolla parents with resources for identifying risk factors to prevent suicide in their school-aged children, presenting an adult version of what the students learned in assemblies. SPEAK told parents how to be lifelines for children in need of emotional and/or professional help.
"Essentially we want parents to know what the warning signs of suicide are," said SPEAK program coordinator Jean Foster. "We want them to know exactly what things they see or hear in a youth that should alert them that there's a problem … that a child is suicidal."
They advised parents what to do for children suffering with thoughts of depression or self-inflicting injuries, which are often times due to the issues kids face — like bullying, trauma, relationship woes and stress.
Above all else, the presentation placed emphasis on its acronym: SPEAKING.
"We want to destigmatize the conversation around suicide and make sure we're starting that conversation about mental illness," Foster said. "That's really our objective, to get people talking about mental illness so it's not such a scary subject. By
about it, we're really
something about it."
In association with the San Diego chapter of the Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program, the SPEAK workshop included a suicide prevention video that students at Muirlands and La Jolla High also viewed during the week.
SPEAK intends its message to touch children in need who haven't received treatment for potentially dangerous issues.
"We feel there are a lot of kids who might be depressed who aren't in treatment," Forster said. "We want to make sure we identify and get them the help they need."
Going forward, SPEAK coordinators hope to keep suicide prevention and awareness talks circulating to keep more San Diego youth from becoming suicide statistics.
On the Web
Warning signs of suicide
- Talking, reading or writing about suicide or death
- Talking about feeling worthless or helpless
- Visiting friends to say good-bye
- Self-destructive behaviors, drug/alcohol abuse
- Giving things away
- Buying a gun, stockpiling pills or drugs
- Having a definite plan to end one's life
If any of these apply, seek help immediately.
San Diego County 24-Hour Access & Crisis Line: