Emergency: How Do I Access Help Now?
Through Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services, help is available 24 hours, 7 days a week for youth who are experiencing immediate and severe emotional crisis at 703-777-0320. The Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center, located at 102 Heritage Way, Leesburg, Virginia, is open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, and mental health professionals are available for anyone in crisis. Non-emergency appointments can be made at 703-771-5100.
Also, there are free, confidential 24/7 supports available:
- PRS CrisisLink: 703-527-4077 or text "CONNECT" to 855-11
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- SAMHSA National Helpline: 800-662-HELP (4357)
- Children's Regional Crisis Response (CR2): 844-NCrisis (627-4747) in English and Espanol
- Hopeline: Chat at http://www.hopeline.com or call 800-784-2433
SOS Signs of Suicide Prevention Program
The teen years are often a roller-coaster ride of emotions with this time being especially susceptible to wide variations in mood and risky behaviors. It is easy to misread depression as normal adolescent turmoil; however, depression appears to be occurring at a much earlier age, and the past decade has seen teen suicide rates double. Suicide is the second leading cause of death in youth ages 10 to 19, and there are often warning signs that are overlooked.The Loudoun County Public Schools' Depression Awareness and Suicide Prevention program is based on the SOS Signs of Suicide® High School Prevention Program (http://www.mentalhealthscreening.org), which is the only evidenced-based program that has shown a 40% reduction in self-reported suicide attempts. Through classroom instruction and an educational video (Friends for Life), students are taught to identify the signs of depression, suicidality, and self-injury in themselves and their peers and to take help-seeking actions using the simple and easy-to-remember ACT® (Acknowledge-Care-Tell) technique. The program is implemented by LCPS school psychologists, school social workers, and school counselors in all high schools.The program goals are straightforward:
- Help youth understand that depression is a treatable illness
- Decrease suicide and suicide attempts by increasing knowledge and adaptive attitudes about depression among students
- Educate youth that suicide is not a normal response to stress but rather, a preventable tragedy that often occurs as a result of untreated depression or other mental illness
- Increase help-seeking by providing students with specific action steps to take if they are concerned about themselves or others and identifying the resources available to them
- Encourage peer-to-peer communication about the ACT help-seeking message
- Reduce stigma associated with mental health problems by integrating the topic into existing health curriculums
Youth Suicide Warning Signs
Leaders from the American Association of Suicidology and the National Center for the Prevention of Youth Suicide formed a national consensus around youth warning signs on suicide derived from the best available evidence. According to an expert panel on youth suicide (www.youthsuicidewarningsigns.org), the following signs may mean that a youth is at risk for suicide, particularly in youth who have attempted suicide in the past. Risk is greater if the warning sign is:
- new or has increased, and
- possibly related to an anticipated or actual emotionally painful event, loss, or change.
Finally, the presence of more than one of the following warning signs may increase a youth's risk for engaging in suicidal behaviors in the near future:
- Talking about or making plans for suicide
- Expressing hopelessness about the future
- Displaying severe/overwhelming emotional pain or distress
- Showing worrisome behavioral cues or marked changes in behavior, particularly in the presence of the warning signs above. Specifically, this includes significant:
- Withdrawal from or changes in social connections/situations
- Changes in sleep (increase/decrease)
- Anger or hostility that seems out of character or out of context
- Recent increased agitation or irritability
How To Help: Tips for Talking About Suicide?
If these warning signs are present, friends or parents can help by acknowledging these serious signs of depression or suicide, letting him or her know you care, and informing a trusted adult who can help:
Never leave someone alone who has threatened to harm him or herself or promise to keep it a secret. Get help immediately.
- Ask if they are okay or if they are having thoughts of suicide
- Express your concern about what you are observing in their behavior
- Listen attentively and non-judgmentally
- Reflect what they share and let them know they have been heard
- Tell them they are not alone
- Let them know that there are treatments available that can help
- Guide them to additional professional help