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Suicide Awareness

Updated on January 23, 2017
Luke Holm profile image

Luke works as a middle school English, ELD, social justice, and mindfulness teacher in the sanctuary city, San Jose, CA.

Do you know the signs of suicidal tendencies?

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Becoming Aware

Everyone experiences the hardships of life. Some people, however, seem to live in perpetual darkness. The lives of these people are riddled with abuse, depression, and feelings of isolation. Many times people try to escape into alternate realities. They may abuse intoxicating substances, hurt themselves, hurt others, or hide away from the world altogether. It is important to recognize these negative tendencies and react accordingly to them so that these people can enhance their lives to experience happiness once again.



When I first became a teacher, I had a young lady in my class named Jessie. Jessie was a pretty girl, but very aggressive toward other students. She often missed school, was failing my class, and had few friends. As the year progressed, her negative behavior intensified. Sometimes she would be so upset that she would yell at me for no reason at all.

I started to notice a change in her appearance. Her hair was disheveled, she wore heavy amounts of makeup, and she wore hooded sweatshirts rather than her typical short sleeve shirts. In class, she started putting her head down and not lifting it up when I asked her. One day, I came up to her and found her crying. I asked her what was wrong, but she wouldn't tell me.

I had connected her to our school counselor weeks prior to this engagement, but still felt like there was more to be done. After many attempts to be nice to her, to show her love, and be as open as possible, she broke down and told me what was going on.

At home, her relationship with her mother was fierce. They spent all afternoon screaming back and forth at each other, cursing, and yelling how much they hate the other. Jessie would lock herself in her room, and her mother would leave the house. At night, her mom would bring home men and have parties. Jessie had no responsibility, no one to look after her, and the feeling that all the world had abandoned her.

As a staff, we eventually had Jessie's mom come in for a parent conference. We helped her realize the impact her lifestyle had on her child. At first it didn't seem like she cared much, but we told her about the changes we saw in her daughter. Jessie was withdrawing from her teachers, her peers, and herself. She covered up scratches on her arms with her long sleeves. She masked her sadness with makeup.

One day, students rushed into my classroom to tell me that Jessie had just taken a handful of pills in the hallway. Other teachers were already attending to her as I called 911. That day, Jessie was carried out of school in a wheelchair. She got her stomach pumped and was enrolled into a drug prevention program.

I don't think her mom ever fully understood how severe her daughter's depression had become. She was too distracted with her own life to care. We contacted child protection services and practically forced the mom to get her daughter help.

That day was the last I heard of Jessie. Through the grapevine, I learned that she was in a hospital-like facility that helped treat addiction and depression. The counselor went to visit her often and reported that she seemed to be doing much better.

Jessie wasn't innately depressed or suicidal. Her problems derived from a lack of care and love in her home life. All it took was someone to pay attention to her for her to start getting better. Jessie wanted to be happy and healthy, but when the world doesn't care about you, it's hard to care for yourself.

What Would You Say? What Would You Do?

There once was a man from Kalamazoo

who couldn't quite figure what he should do.

He tried to play banjo, but that was too hard

so he built up a garden, perfecting his yard.

The plants died quickly, the weeds grew too fast.

Even his cactus became a plant of the past.

So he bought a dog and named it Ben.

Living together, they became best friends.

All seemed great, perfect, and right,

but then Ben escaped and ran into the night.

The man put up flyers, but got a ticket for solicitation.

Then went into debt because someone stole his information.

He lost his home, the only thing to his name.

He cursed his luck, but knew he was to blame.

He moved to the streets and begged for spare cash,

for slowly, but surely, he was saving a stash.

He was saving to buy thousands of bees.

With that many bees, he could do as he pleased.

He'd make a fortune, selling their honey,

but, before he got started, some bum stole all his money.

Broke and starving, and clinging to life,

a woman found him and became his pretty, young wife.

He loved her in every possible way,

but soon they divorced. It turned out she was gay.

Back on the streets, caught in the rain,

heart still hurting, stabbing with pain,

he ran to a bridge that crossed a cold river,

climbed over the railing and started to shiver.

A wicked wind whipped a threatening blow,

swaying so slightly, he need only let go.

He wondered why he should try to hold on

when everything he loved was taken or gone.

If only he had a friend to confide

all of the pain he was holding inside.

If you met this man on this terrible day,

what would you do, what would you say?


Teen Suicide Facts

Suicide is the second leading cause for death in people 10-24 years old.

Suicide is the 10th leading cause for death in the United States.

4/5 teens have shown warning signs before attempting suicide.

There are an average of 25 attempts at suicide to 1 actual suicide.

Teens who have attempted suicide in the past are likely to try again.

Depression, inability to eat, or oversleeping could be signs of an impending suicide attempt.

Open communication is one of the greatest deterrents to teens committing suicide.


Recognizing Suicidal Tendencies

As an educator, I encounter many young people who are dealing with problems beyond my comprehension. Whether my student is dealing with homelessness, physical or sexual abuse, bullying, or existential crises, the threat needs to heard and immediate action must be taken.

As a child's brain develops, their prefrontal cortex doesn't yet have the ability to see long term results or understand the repercussions of their actions. Many students self-harm, discuss suicide, or contemplate suicide in an effort to be noticed. The result of the adults near them not actively listening or paying attention to warning signs could be fatal for these people.

Several warning signs of a suicidal person are notions of self-loathing, the person openly talks negatively about themself or their life. Behavior changes are obvious and potentially destructive, such as getting involved in intoxicating substances, acting recklessly, abandoning friends, or acting aggressively. Furthermore, changes in mood are good indicators that something is wrong. If someone is acting depressed, angry, lethargic, irritability, or unnecessary anxiety are good clues that something is severely wrong.

Don't take any signs for granted. Always talk to the people around you, especially the children, helping them realize their importance and fullest potential. You are here for a reason, to love the world and all the people within it. Don't take your position lightly.

Teen Suicide Prevention

Suicide Hotline Resources

Suicide Prevention Hotline: 24 hours/7days a week call or chat: dial 1-800-273-8255 or go to

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

The Trevor Project: 24 hours/7 days a week help; they have a phone number, text or chat options:

For more resources on warning signs, risk factors, and what to do:


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