Suicide Prevention

Teen suicide is a growing issue everywhere


Noah D'Angelo

Teacher comforts student dealing with depression

Noah D'Angelo, Staff Writer

Most parents would probably say their teen driving a car would be the scariest thing to worry about. But in reality more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.

Just let that sink in for now. If that doesn’t make suicide an issue, try this on for size:

More than 5,400 students in grades 7-12 attempt suicide each day. That averages out to one attempted suicide every eighteen seconds.

The real question posed here: Are we doing enough to help?

To combat this problem Bellwood-Antis’s Vice Principal Mrs. Cathy Adams took an initiative this year and invited a special guest speaker to inform the teachers about teen suicide at an October in-service day.

“A new school board policy was introduced this year,” said Mrs. Adams. “Every teacher in grades 5-12 now needs four hours of suicide prevention information every five years. It’s so much more than that however. I believe it is entirely beneficial to the teachers who will now be able to identify and handle a situation where anyone, not just a student, is suicidal.”

Christine Zernich, a worker at the Crisis Center at UPMC Medical in Altoona, spoke to the staff about suicide prevention. She showed several videos and encouraged discussion among the faculty about the issue.

One of the most important things Mrs. Zernich emphasized was to confront a person you believe is suicidal and ask them if they are considering killing themselves.

“Many people think that when you ask this question you put the thought of suicide in their brains, but in reality, that’s not true at all,” said Mrs. Zernich. “If the person answers with a yes, get help right away and tell a trusted adult. Listen to that person non-judgmentally and provide support and encouragement for them to get help. If they have a plan to do it, don’t let them alone. The little alone time that they do get, it could happen.”

Getting a suicidal person help is the biggest step. They can learn that what they are dealing with can be resolved and that they can continue the most precious thing, life.

Years ago, people were afraid to talk about it and no one knew how to go about it when handling a situation regarding suicide.

— Mrs. Adams

“The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a helpful resource that was developed in 2004. It is a very useful tool for people contemplating suicide,” said Mrs. Zernich.  “The Lifeline gives people contemplating suicide someone to talk one-on-one to and allows them to let out whatever emotions that have been bottled up inside. We can help, and we will help.”

When asked about the presentation, Bellwood-Antis HS history teacher Ms. Brant said, “The information Mrs. Zernich provided us was something I was already aware of, but it was brought into a much brighter light. It was more helpful as well, being able to share what we learned with professionals in our field.”

The concerted effort is part of an emphasis on suicide by the Bellwood-Antis School District.

“It’s very important to talk about this issue in a school setting,” added Mrs. Adams. “Years ago, people were afraid to talk about it and no one knew how to go about it when handling a situation regarding suicide. It shouldn’t be hidden. Students are like balloons, as are people in general. Only so much pressure can go in before it finally blows.”