Let’s Talk About the “S Word”

By EMMA GOULARTE

Lauren Magana talks to students and parents at Benicia High School
Credit: Emma Goularte

The “s word” is a word that is shushed and hushed. Suicide. This is the word we are afraid to talk about with our friends, family, or even a professional. With more teens having higher anxiety levels in high school, they are suffering from more and more mental health problems. We still don’t talk about it the way it should be talked about. It is whispered about and people feel like they have to talk about it in hushed tones. On Tuesday the 19th, guest speaker, Lauren Magana, came and talked to a group that wanted to learn more about mental health. At this event we learned how to help someone who is going through a rough time.  This event broke away from feeling embarrassed about it and learning how to ask the hard questions, one being “Are you thinking about hurting yourself?” When having these discussions with a friend or a child, we tend to beat around the bush, afraid to ask the hard questions.  

First, we talked about the “nitty gritty.” There are many different things that affect a person’s mental health. “According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 25% of 13 to 18 year olds have an anxiety disorder.” That percentage doesn’t seem that high, but we want that number down to zero. Poor mental health can be a reason for the bad grades or bad academic performance, it’s not always a lack of effort. 

When it comes to anxiety or thinking about suicide there are signs and risk factors. Magana shared six big risk factors with us. “Behavioral health issues or disorders, substance abuse or dependence, previous suicide attempts, family history/ current discord, social isolation, and victims and perpetrators of bullying.” On the list there aren’t many things that surprised me, but one thing that did was that perpetrators of bullying are also victims of behavioral health issues and disorders. You never truly know what is going on in someone’s life, and people tend to act out when they are searching for help.

A problem with anxiety is the symptoms can resemble just being stressed, and they aren’t always obvious. Some symptoms are, difficulty sitting still, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, mood changes, feeling overwhelmed, changes in sleep, somatic symptoms etc. Somatic symptoms can mean feeling sick or uneasy before going to school, when you can’t sleep at night because you are worrying about going to school the next day. 

Then we got into the signs and symptoms of suicidality, which consists of “hopelessness, social isolation, self injury, talking or writing about death, recklessness, substance abuse, changes in sleep and mood.” What do we do if someone has these symptoms? It’s really hard, but you must ask. Ask if they are thinking about hurting themselves and ask if they need help. Listen, along with asking, listening is one of the most important things you can do. You need to make sure to maintain a supportive and involved relationship. If it is your child, help teach problem solving skills, label feelings, and self talk.

Along with all of this information, she gave out a list of resources of places or numbers you could call for help. Lauren Magana helped speak out and help the families and people going through everyday mental health problems.

List of Resources for suicide prevention and emotional help
Credit: Emma Goularte

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