1. Education

Teen Suicide in Private Schools

It IS Preventable


This is preventable

This is preventable

Photo © Daniel Diaz
Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5 to 14 year olds. The pressure on juniors and seniors is intense. They feel that they must succeed academically, socially and athletically. They feel that they absolutely have to get into the right college. They push themselves to the limit. All you have to do is add other factors like sexuality and family issues such as divorce or finances and you have a recipe for disaster. 60 per cent of high school students recently surveyed indicated that they had thought about suicide.

Are Private Schools Immune?

Absolutely not. All the same factors come into play. And more. Children in boarding school can really feel cut off from their basic support group which is family and friends back home. The work load can be intensive. The pressure to get accepted at a good college is enormous.


You and I can prevent suicide by understanding the issue and implementing measures to reach out to teenagers who are thinking about suicide.

Understand Suicide

"Suicides among young people nationwide have increased dramatically in recent years. Each year in the U.S. thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-to-24 year olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5-to-14 year olds" according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Recognize the Warning Signs

Read The Warning Signs of Teen Suicide. These include:

  • Change in eating and sleeping habits.
  • Drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Noticeable personality change.
  • Violent reactions, rebellious behavior, running away.
  • Persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, falling grades.

How Do You Assess a Teen for Suicide?

Read about Youth Depression. "The majority of suicidal children and adolescents have clinical depression alone or in conjunction with another depressive illness like anxiety disorder, attention deficit disorder, bipolar illness (manic depression), or child-onset schizophrenia." Learn the clues.

What About Gay and Lesbian Teens?

Studies consistently show that a high percentage of gay and lesbian youth (25-30%) attempt suicide. Read Stopping Gay SuicideYou might want to consider starting a chapter of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)

Is Your School Prepared?

Does your school know how to handle potential suicide? If you are a private school administrator or teacher, have you reviewed your school's protocols for handling potential suicide?

  • Does your school have a protocol?
  • How does your board feel?
  • What does your insurance company say?
  • What does legal counsel say?
  • What does your accrediting association say?
Do not procrastinate! If you have come up short with answers to any of these tough questions, take action immediately. You need to be prepared in case the unthinkable happens on your watch. Be proactive. Be prepared to intervene.

The simple truth is that most young people end up killing themselves because they don't know where else to turn. They are in pain which seems unbearable and they want the pain to stop. They choose death because they didn't know what else to do. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the 15 to 24 year old age group. Since 1960, there has been a 368% increase in the suicide rate in this group.

Reach Out to Teenagers Thinking About Suicide

Make the entire school community aware of the issue. Groundskeeper, headmaster, faculty, office staff - everybody needs to help. Charge them all with the responsibility of being open and accessible when a somebody asks for help. You need to do this with seminars, speakers, events - whatever it takes to sensitize the members of your school community to the issue.

Maintain a Hot Line

Teens in trouble in a private school need to be able to talk to somebody 24/7. The onset of feelings of hopelessness and despair respect nobody's clock. The hot line must preserve the caller's anonymity yet offer trained assistance as required. Judgmental responses and attitudes will not work on a hot line. You need to stabilize the situation long enough to get the caller moving in a positive direction.

If you don't have the resources for a hot line, then make these numbers widely available. Post them in prominent locations. 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).

Remove the Impersonal, Third Person Approach to Suicide Discussions

Teens thinking about suicide need to hear the stories and experiences of people like themselves who have been in their situation. One of the reasons a child contemplates suicide is because he thinks he is the only person who has ever had those feelings and problems. Use video for this preventative measure. It preserves the confidentiality of the subject, yet at the same time exposes the feelings and experiences of somebody who has thought about suicide.


Youth Depression
Gay Teen Suicide
Yellow Ribbon International
The Jason Foundation

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