Suicide Prevention Seminar
by: Justin Wang
Last week, on November 7th, Mr. Killeen held an assembly that was focused on mindfulness and suicide prevention. Primarily intended for a parental audience, Mr. Killeen and his guest speaker Mr. Stan Collins spoke volumes about aspects of suicide prevention, including causes, possible solutions, and general tips on the issue. Multiple school officials, including our superintendent, and TPHS principal Rob Coppo spoke briefly about the seriousness and changes that need to be implemented surrounding this issue. Stan Collins, following a brief introduction, covered key issues surrounding the topic of suicide prevention. He opened with a personal anecdote, outlining the story of his best friend Jesse, who he lost to suicide in high school. Much like the feelings circulating through our school after the loss of 2 students, Collins remembered feeling “anger, guilt, sadness, and confusion… [he] couldn’t comprehend why Jesse had taken his own life”. Throughout the presentation, Collins made it abundantly clear that “ The issue of suicide is something that we only speak about when it punches us in the face. The truth is our views are always in need of this even outside the tragedies,” even if people shy away from it at first. Collins spoke about his own push to have suicide awareness and prevention on his own campus, the campaign of which took 3 months until the principal finally agreed to sit down and talk to him. Collins led these anecdotes into a more conceptual discussion of suicide prevention - even criticizing his own speaking situation, saying that even though “gathering three thousand students into a gymnasium” is better than nothing, it isn’t “effective, only efficient”. Collins also discussed the language surrounding suicide, commenting that “reasons not to die” have a more negative connotation than “reasons to live”, due to “not dying” setting the bar at mere survival. He then went on to urge all of us to practice better, more neutral-connotation language when discussing suicide, especially when trying to prevent it or raise awareness. Many of the statistics Collins presented later in this presentation both worried the audience, and acted as a harrowing reminder of the resources in place for suicide prevention (of which there are very little). In fact, even though suicide was the top 3 killers for most age groups above 5-7 years old, there were no “socially embedded messages” about suicide, like there are for drugs and homicide. Collins concluded his presentation with a demonstration of solutions to prevent suicide and ease pain. He emphasized that “suicide is not caused by a single event … rather, it is like a Jenga tower”, where each brick adds to the instability of the entire situation. “Suicide prevention is turning the dials a little bit today, a little bit more tomorrow”, and tomorrow and tomorrow until your friend is in a better place than they were before.