- The rate of children who are hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or actions more than doubled between 2008 and 2015, and the increased rates are making medical professionals, parents and educators examine what is causing the increase and what could be done to prevent it, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
- A study by Vanderbilt University found that suicidal child patients tended to be admitted into hospitals in the fall and spring more often than the summer, and one doctor theorized that the sheer amount of information children have access to, much of which can be traumatizing, could be a factor in the increase.
- The ease of access to digital information and communication can more easily enable cyberbullying among students, but it also means children may have more access to information about how to harm themselves, according to medical professionals.
The study indicates that many of the children who consider suicidal thoughts do so in the fall. It may be happenstance that this coincides with the start of the year for many schools, but it can be an exceptionally stressful time for students, particularly those entering a new school. Educators must be prepared and cognizant of signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, even in students who may be unfamiliar or new to them. In the fall, students may be spending more time away from home than usual, which means educators may be some of the more present and consistent adults in their lives.
As school districts face budget cuts on the state and federal level, they are increasingly cutting down on "non-essential" personnel, including school psychologists. According to a 2012 American Psychological Association analysis, there should be one school psychologist for every 500 to 700 students, but one professor in the analysis hypothesized that in many states, the ratio is closer to one psychologist for every 2,000 students — or even as high as 3,500. Teachers are less likely to lose their positions due to budget cuts, but because of staff shortages they are forced to take on roles that would otherwise be filled by a qualified mental health professional.
Educators can respond with methods and approaches like social-emotional learning, which integrates students’ mental health needs into classroom curricula. It enables teachers to address the concerns and anxieties students may have while continuing to fill their primary role as educators. Experts maintain that SEL can assist students by helping them learn to better address and regulate their emotions, but in the context of suicidal thoughts, this is more of a preventative measure meant to stave off future depression. More direct services may be needed to combat immediate health risks posed to older students who are dealing with suicidal thoughts.