Bullying & suicide: Helping teachers save a life

If you've ever known someone who's committed suicide, you know all too well the pain and suffering it causes those left behind. You may have even asked yourself, could I have done anything to prevent it?

That's what a new initiative aims to do: save a life.

The latest figures show suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. An estimated 34,598 people took their own lives in this country in 2007. For every one of those deaths, experts say another 11 people attempted suicide.

Suicide is a major problem for young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the third leading cause of death for people age 12-18. It is a major public health problem across the country, one experts say, is preventable.

Now, teachers, administrators and educators across New York State will have a chance to save a life. The state's suicide prevention initiative is reaching out to teachers, hoping they can prevent untimely, unnecessary deaths. The program will offer online training to as many as 30,000 educators in high schools statewide. Every public and private high school across the state is eligible for the program and won't cost them a dime.

The suicide prevention program helps educators uncover signs of bullying and other mental stress with the hopes of preventing suicide. It's being offered as preventable deaths are on the rise nationwide with more teenagers taking their own lives.

A webinar for educators is planned for August 23rd. Schools interested in the training or organizing their own programs should click here.

"I think it's wonderful," said Stephanie Piston, a state action leader for the Love is Not Abuse Coalition, told CNYCentral by phone. "I think many teachers don't recognize the signs."

That was the case with her own son who, she says, was bullied at the age of 10. She credits the North Syracuse Central School District for taking it seriously. "The young people don't have the capacity to handle it and the teachers don't have the information to recognize it," she said. Piston hopes providing teachers with resources to understand and recognize bullying and backing it up with punishments will help save lives. "We've lost too many young people, talented young people and who knows what they could have done," she said.

Bullying doesn't always, but can lead to suicide.

In a 2008 study, researchers at Yale School of Medicine found signs of an apparent connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide in children. "While there is no definitive evidence that bullying makes kids more likely to kill themselves, now that we see there's a likely association, we can act on it and try to prevent it," said review lead author Young-Shin Kim, M.D., assistant professor at Yale School of Medicine's Child Study Center .

During the 2007-2008 school year, 32 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being bullied. Nine percent reported being physically injured by the bullying.

Experts say both victims and perpetrators of bullying are at a higher risk for suicide than their peers.

There are important suicide risk factors to watch out for:

- depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors- prior suicide attempt- family history of mental disorder or substance abuse- family history of suicide- family violence, including physical or sexual abuse- firearms in the home, the method used in more than half of suicides- incarceration- exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures

Read more about what can be done to prevent suicide.

If you have had suicidal thoughts on know someone who has, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It's a free, 24-hour hotline available to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.

Will the suicide prevention initiatives for teachers work? Is it an unfair burden to place on teachers or are they an integral part in helping to stop bullying and preventing suicide?

On, stea writes, "This is a good idea. I feel sorry for teachers because so much work is placed upon them. Kids need to come from better homes."

What do you think? Has your child been bullied? How concerned are you about the problem of bullying? Do you know anyone who's tried to commit suicide? What should be done to prevent it? Leave your thoughts below.

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Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.