World Suicide Prevention Day was September 10th, twenty days ago. I didn’t know it at the time. I found a postcard on my desk, buried in catalogs and other mail, reminding me of this fact just this morning. I have a love/hate relationship with these types of days. Part of me feels like it does a disservice to relegate awareness of these problems to just one day; it should always be on our minds. At the same time, I realize that awareness of so many worthwhile causes would fall by the wayside unless a big to-do is made about them one day a year; one week a year; one month a year. And even this one day passed me by without my noticing.
As people who can lead teens to useful information, maybe suicide and self-harm is more present in teen librarians’ awareness than others. We are sure to have up to date books on our shelves. We put out any bookmarks or posters with help lines that come our way. We smile at teens. We welcome them to our space. We help them feel important. We try. Sometimes it must work, right? But sometimes it doesn’t and though the failing isn’t ours alone, or at all, if a teen in our community commits suicide there isn’t one of us who hasn’t wished we could’ve done something to help.
Twenty days ago was the big to-do. But it’s obviously still an issue. We all remind teens to buckle up, drive safely, don’t text while driving. No one bats an eye at these constant reminders to take care of oneself. But when I think about the young lives that have ended around me, the sad truth is that it wasn’t cars or violence or disease that ended most of those lives, it was suicide.
That postcard was a reminder to me, so I’m passing it on, twenty days late or just in time. Here’s a reminder, from me to you.
What you can do:
Post information about crisis hotlines in your teen space or on your website: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetInvolved/Materials
Know the warning signs and don’t feel foolish about taking steps if you fear for the life of one of the teens with whom you work:
Check out the free course offerings from the Society of Prevention of Teen Suicide:
Look over your nonfiction offerings and make sure nothing needs to be replaced, updated, or withdrawn. Be sure to include in this review your sections on depression, coping with grief, GLBTQ acceptance, bullying, anxiety, and stress relief.
Please use the comment section to share your resources and stories of how teen librarians can be allies to teens struggling with suicidal thoughts.