Let’s Talk About Suicide Prevention

Summer Institutes- Scott Ricardo

As far as I am concerned, if we do not suffer from a suicide or school shooting incident, we will have a very successful school year. I suggest we concentrate on Relationship Based Education that provides a culture of hope to our students.

Recently, as a substitute teacher, the lesson plan given to me included a discussion about a quote written on the board “Kindness can unlock steel doors.” In our discussion, one young sophomore girl blurted out that she has learned to be kind because she has been sexually abused and had thoughts of suicide. Alarm bells immediately went off in my mind and my gut clenched. She was strong and poised when she spoke. I knew her point was that people like her can feel like they are locked behind steel doors with dark experiences, so she wants to be kind to people and unlock them from darkness. But I also knew we needed to talk.

I thanked her and continued the discussion until it led to independent work. That’s when I pulled her over to the side so I could drill down deeper. The conversation went something like this.

“Darcy (fictional name), I want to thank you for your candor and heartfelt thoughts, but from what you said in the class discussion, it is my duty to report what I heard to our school counselor.”

“First of all,” I asked, “do you feel suicidal today?” She said no, but that she had cut herself in the past.

“Does your counselor at school know?” I continued.

“No,” she said, “but my parents do.”

“Does the counselor know about the sexual abuse?”

“No, but my parents do,” she repeated. “And they are working on getting a restraining order because the guy is getting out of jail soon.”

Those words instantly spiked my male protective instincts sky high. I let her know that I was going to share this important information with her counselor because by law, I must report it and more importantly, because I care about her. She was okay with it.

What happened next, I think I will remember for the rest of my life. I said, “Darcy, if you ever have those dark thoughts about suicide again, please talk to someone immediately. Realize that each one us have this negative person in our mind that tears us down.You also need to know that your survival is truly needed by some young girl in your future. I am willing to bet that when you reach your 30’s or 40’s you will know of a young teenage girl who is contemplating suicide and you will save her!”

Her face lit up, so I continued painting a picture of hope for her future.

“I see your career maybe as a counselor.”

At that moment, I actually saw her eyes click with a true understanding. She offered a genuine “Thank you, Mr. Ric,” smiled, and returned to the class. I believe she will remember the “snapshot of her future” in her brain, which will inspire her to have hope and look forward to her future.

All us of know of a family member, friend and/or famous person who has committed suicide. Here is an excellent suicide prevention site for your review: https://hilinskishope.org

What our own online narrative writing instructor, Ingrid Ricks, a NYT Best Selling Author, has discovered is that so often preventing self-harm and suicide among teens comes down to asking them about their troubles and the story that they need to tell. In at least two cases, Ingrid told me that asking students about their stories has led to an immediate intervention by school counselors that may have saved their lives. Her Healing Through Narrative Writing course is also receiving great reviews from various suicide prevention programs. Click here for information about her 3-credit course.

I care about all of you,

Scott Ricardo