A few weeks ago, the suicide of young medical resident Jing Mai struck a cord with medical students, medical residents, and college students across the country. Heartbreaking and beautiful messages from Jing’s loved ones showcased her brilliance and her pain, which touched the hearts of thousands. The end of Jing Mai’s life in the past month also sparked widespread discussion on physician suicides and mental health. To learn more about physician suicides and Jing’s story follow this link.
It's important to recognize the signs and symptoms of suicidality and severe depression. Here are some signs to look out for:
Feeling extreme depression, guilt, or shame.
Talking about, or preoccupation with, death or suicide.
Preparing for death, such as updating/preparing a will, giving away possessions, or taking steps to access lethal means (buying a firearm, acquiring quantities of pills/medication, researching ways to die).
Exhibiting a dramatic change in behavior, including withdrawal from friends or usual activities, increased alcohol/drug use, difficulties in sleeping or eating, decreased self-care.
Knowing the signs of suicide risk is the first step in getting the people you care about the resources they need. One of the best resources, promoted by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the 988 National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number that replaced the previous crisis hotline. More information about the 988 Lifeline and related resources can be found at 988lifeline.org.
How can School Administrators and Faculty address the growing suicide crisis?
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports statistics on the community impact of suicide, including the prevalence by group:
4.9% of all adults
11.3% of young adults aged 18-25
18.8% of high school students
45% of LGBTQ youth
The highest rates of suicide in the U.S. are among American Indian/Alaska Natives followed by non-Hispanic whites.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are nearly 4x more likely to attempt suicide than straight youth.
Transgender adults are nearly 9x more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for people held in local jails.
These statistics are vital to informing how administrators can work to support their students and focus on at-risk groups. NAMI’s blog also provides many resources on how to prevent & address suicide and promoting mental healthcare. Some resources include psychological first aid kids, guidelines for responding to death by suicide, Ending the Silence (on suicide) presentations and more.
The most important step for school administrators and faculty to take in creating a safe school climate for their students is to start talking about mental health and suicide. Breaking the stigma is a critical factor in promoting help-seeking and reducing mental health symptomology. You can remind students that they are not alone using Neolth's Student Stories to illustrate that students worldwide are also struggling and made it through using a variety of resources. Implementing Neolth into your school's curriculum is another way to improve social-emotional learning skills and start the conversation about mental health.
If you or anyone you know is struggling, please call 988 or text HOME to 741741 to immediately connect with a crisis counselor. It gets better. You are not alone.
Drishti More (she/her/hers), senior public health student at the University of Florida, is set to receive her Master's in Public Health in 2024. Her passion for health equity and accessibility has led her to work with organizations such as Neolth, the American Red Cross, and Days for Girls International. As an Outreach Intern at Neolth, Drishti is expanding knowledge of and access to stigma-free mental health care to students across the country.