Youth Suicide Prevention Needs Community Support

If you have put in even as little as five to ten minutes research on suicide you would see the rates are astonishing.  Some countries have more suicides than others.  There are also certain groups or categories of people who, due to their histories, support systems and socio-environmental factors, are at a higher risk for suicide than the general public.  However there are individuals who are often perceived to have had everything they needed to be happy and fulfilled, yet still felt like ending their lives. I imagine there are many people out there who are feeling the same way right at this moment. Sadly many of them are youth.  Youth suicide should be a concern not only for you or me but for society in general.  Hearing about the recent increase in youth suicides and suicide attempts in my province made me realize that we need to strategize on reducing these numbers.

Suicide is preventable.  That is what I keep hearing.  So how do we keep kids from killing themselves?  Working with kids I know that each situation is different in their reasons for giving up on themselves.  However, the strategies are generally the same.  The first one is to reach out and let them know you are there for them if something seems off to you.  Many times kids won’t ask for help due to guilt, shame, embarrassment or just thinking nobody cares.  In fact they often don’t even care about themselves enough to make a move towards something that is helpful to them.  You need to ask the question: do you feel like ending your life?

If a youth is able to muster enough courage to approach and ask you for help, understand that you have been given a gift.  A youth’s greatest fear is rejection and judgement.  They have placed their lives in your hands because you have earned their trust and believe in you.  You don’t need to know all the answers right at that moment, you just need to be compassionate and understanding. Ask questions rather than giving statements.  Let the youth know that professional help will have to be involved but you will be with them along the way.  Do not leave them alone, rather be with them until you know they are safe, both physically and emotionally.  You are the thread that day- don’t break it.

When you go through this a few times (as I have in my social work career) you learn that the first ten to fifteen minutes are the hardest.  After that both you and the youth will feel a sense of relief.  At the Child and Family Services Agency I work for, we get calls almost every week about a youth who wants to or has tried to end their life.  As much as I feel sadden by number of these calls we get, I am proud of the fact that youth are placing their trust in us to help them.  My challenge to others in our province is to be the person a youth can go to for help when they feel like they can’t go on.  I also challenge our province to provide sufficient support services for our youth.  Bringing in overwhelmed youth to an overwhelmed system turns people away.

Seeing very little support currently in place in regards to suicide awareness and support in Saskatchewan that the youth can connect to as a large group, a couple friends (Sara and Leanne)and I organized a youth suicide prevention conference and rally.  It is called Ignite the Life.  We felt the need to do something and put our ideas into action. Our aim is not only to reduce the number of youth suicides but to bring attention to this issue and offer education in regards to support services and hope for the future.

We have received an overwhelming response to Ignite the Life indicating there was an urgent need.  We understand that our conference ideas may not be a fit or be suitable for everyone; therefore we challenge you to develop something that meets the unique needs of the youth in your community.

Remember:  Suicide is preventable. Suicide prevention can start with you.


         Treena Wynes, RSW, BSW


About Treena Wynes