SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Depression is more than sadness, and suicide risk is more than depression. Sadness is usually in response to something specific (i.e. a breakup, a poor test grade, a fight with a friend). The cause can usually be pinpointed or described. Depression is sadness that lasts for a long time (at least two weeks), and does not necessarily have a "cause." People will typically not be able to answer the question of "why they are sad."
Signs and symptoms:"Depressed mood" can look like sadness, or in children and teens look more like an irritable mood. Depression often brings with it a loss of concentration or interest in things that used to be fun or pleasurable – parents may see this as apathy. Changes in sleeping (too much or too little) and changes in eating (too much or too little) are also signs that sadness has moved to depression. Sometimes depression just looks like it has slowed the person down. They may report fatigue and look like they are physically moving slower – perhaps with a report of restless feelings. The symptoms combine to cause significant difficulty coping with life and participating in social, school or work activities.
Unhappiness and depression is hard to watch in someone we love. If sadness continues over time and interrupts the flow of life, it is serious. It may look to the adult like the child has just stopped life in his or her tracks. Life is hard, and there does not appear to be a logical explanation or solution.
Time and intensity. Moodiness comes and goes...depression sticks around and makes every part of life a little harder. With depression, you may still see some "up" times, but they are usually short-lived and fleeting.
Suicidal thoughts can be an outgrowth of depression. When a student feels helpless and hopeless, ending life may seem like an option. This is a very scary place to be. Checking in with your child and asking if they feel like it will get better and that life can be fun again of if they have thought about hurting themselves is very important. At any point, if you are concerned about their answer to those questions, a suicide assessment should be conducted.
If you are concerned about your child's immediate safety call 911. Tell the operator your concerns and fears. The police will come out and help get your child to a hospital or mental health center. In the meantime, do not leave your child alone. (You may even need to follow him or her into the bathroom.) Remove all hazardous materials from the house or store them out of your child's reach. This includes guns, large knifes, razor blades, over the counter and prescription pills, ropes, etc. If your child has mentioned a specific way to kill themselves, pay particular attention to the materials needed. Remove all the ways or means that your child could use to die by suicide.
If your child will cooperate, you can take them to the emergency room. A doctor will speak with you, evaluate the situation and make recommendations. If it is determined that he or she needs to be kept safe in the hospital, the police or emergency room will help you.
As a parent, this can be a scary and lonely night. Please remember, there are places to go for help and people waiting to help you. Trust your instinct. If you feel like something is going on with your child, then it probably is. If you are concerned about your child's safety, act on that concern.
If a child has mentioned feeling depressed, hopeless or suicidal, believe it and check it out. It is too much to risk that they might have been "just kidding." Research tells us that students who die by suicide or attempt suicide have thought about it multiple times before acting.
Depression is not only a mood disorder, but also a physical condition. Medication (antidepressants) is often prescribed as a first intervention. We know that treatment can be most effective when counseling or therapy is included. There are specific skills that can be taught to help a student feel in control and hopeful.
Sometimes, depending on your policy. Coverage for mental health varies a lot with different insurance companies. Your company may have a specific group of psychiatrists and therapist from which you can choose. Johnson County Mental Health will work on a sliding scale. They have a 24 hour after hours number that you can call if you need immediate help. (913-384-3535)
* Decisions regarding medication and medication management should be made in consultation with a qualified professional with the training and expertise to prescribe and manage medications for depression. Some anti-depressants have side-effects and proper parent and professional monitoring of adolescents on medications is essential.
JASON FLATT ACT
Suicide Prevention Plan, Crisis Intervention and Professional Learning
The Jason Flatt Act (KSA 72-8260) was passed by the Kansas Legislature and signed by the governor in spring 2016. As a result of this law, each building will have a crisis plan that will include:
- recognition of suicide ideation;
- appropriate interventions; and a crisis recovery plan
So that this information is in the hands of those working closest to the student, each school will provide at least one hour of suicide awareness and prevention training for all school personnel. The content of this training will be made available for parental review.
In Blue Valley, we have found that the Jason Flatt Act is very compatible with our efforts of suicide prevention and intervention. Our district has taken a tiered approach offering prevention education to all students, responsive services to those in need, and intervention protocols for those in crisis. Each building also has a comprehensive crisis plan and crisis response team to work with individuals and groups in the event of a crisis. The district also has a crisis response team and FLIGHT Team that support staff and students during and after an event. The Jason Flatt Act has given us an opportunity to review and refine our procedures while developing annual training presentations that adhere to the KSA 72-8260 and regulations passed by the Kansas School Board.
Our plan is to develop suicide prevention training that includes all KSDE required components and professional learning related to mental health, protective factors, and risk factors. Each year, members of the building mental health team will utilize the following information to meet the requirements and, most importantly, provide for a responsive safe environment for students. Please contact Dr. Mark Schmidt, Assistant Superintendent Well-Being and Student Services with any questions or concerns.