Our staff was profoundly affected by a youth club member’s suicide attempt. Robert is a 12-year-old boy who regularly attends the club. He loves karate and openly calls his karate instructor, his mentor. Robert meets regularly with “Sifu,” the karate master, to practice and over time his skill level has advanced. When Robert first joined the club two years ago, he was a shy fellow. It was clear to all that he has come out of his shell in no small part due to his mentor. Our youth development professionals who had invested countless hours of their time in Robert and loved him were devastated when they learned about his suicide attempt.
Robert had caring adults in his life and hobbies and interests. He had the Boys & Girls Club. Together these influences usually serve to prevent risky behaviors, such as drug abuse and juvenile crime and even suicide. Social research has informed us for years that the best prevention for suicide is meaningful relationships and meaningful social ties. Nevertheless, suicide occurs for many complicated reasons and sometimes for very personal, individual reasons. It can be family trouble, bullying at school or other psychological issues that need intervention and treatment that precipitate suicide attempts. Thankfully, Robert has the opportunity to receive professional help now.
Robert’s mentor “Sifu” went through a depression after he learned about Robert.. He blamed himself for awhile for the suicide attempt. While this is a common reaction is NOT reality-based; it is simply not true. As parents, teachers, youth development professionals and friends we do not cause a suicide attempt, we cannot control the actions of others, nor can we change them.
We can however, care for them and continue to reach out to them and each other. We can ask for help. To help all caring adults deal with this tragic possibility, the Boys & Girls Club of America offers the following information.
There are a number of myths about adolescent suicide:
• A person who threatens suicide won’t really follow through.
REALITY: One out of every five people who threaten suicide go on to make an attempt.
• People who attempt suicide are just trying to get attention.
REALITY: 80 percent of successful suicides have tried previously.
• Talking about suicide might prompt a person to act.
REALITY: Providing support, understanding, and a listening ear for a teen who’s indicating, through words or actions, that they may be suicidal is the best support a caring adult can provide and, if you have any reason to believe someone may be suicidal, get them professional help!
What are the facts about adolescent suicide in America?
• One adolescent attempts suicide every minute.
• Boys are 4-5 times more likely to successfully commit suicide than girls; however, girls will attempt suicide 4-8 times more frequently than boys.
• There will be 100 suicides a week, 14 a day this year.
• For every “successful” suicide, there will be 100 kids who attempt it.
• There will be 500,000 to 1,000,000 attempted suicides each year.
• Suicide is common to all people, not just a particular “type”, ethnicity or socioeconomic group.
• There are many different reasons for suicide (loss of a boyfriend/girlfriend, feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness, poor self-esteem, pressure to succeed, stress, family or school problems, abusive situations, depression, loneliness…and sometimes no visible cause at all), so you can’t predict whether or not someone is at risk.
Taking time to simply listen to and talk with the youth in your life can make a lifetime of difference. For more information on suicide prevention and/or mentoring youth, please contact the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen, 956-682-5791.
For questions or comments, contact Laura Reagan-Porras MS, sociologist and Chief Professional Officer of the Boys & Girls Club of McAllen at 956-682-5791 or firstname.lastname@example.org.