Robin Williams death pushes schools to raise suicide awareness
The Greater Essex District School Board says it has a plan on how to address suicide after becoming concerned students might be influenced by the recent news of comedian Robin Williams taking his life.
Sharon Pyke, superintendent of education with the board, said she's worried student will be using the internet to search for details about how Williams died.
That's pushed officials to create some awareness about suicide with students.
"When school starts we will be sending out material that helps out staff in terms of some warning signs and some symptoms that they may be watching for," said Pyke.
The board employs social workers who can counsel kids and teens.
"It's shifting now, where we're seeing more elementary than secondary, but when we see the secondary, it's pretty intense," said Pyke.
Signs to look for in children
Local hospitals are also available to assist children with depression and suicidal thoughts.
"The overwhelming majority of people if you were to ask them, 'Why are you feeling suicidal? Do you want to kill yourself? Or do you want to be dead or do you just want the pain to stop?' almost all of them will say, 'I just want the pain to stop,'" said Bethany King, a psychologist at the Regional Children's Centre.
King said one in five children have mental health concerns and learning how to create a dialogue with them is the most important thing.
She said the warning signs for kids varies, but some to watch for are:
- loss of interest in activities
- withdrawal from what they once enjoyed doing
- mood changes and anger
King said there are also other type of children she watches for.
"They do very well at school, they're high overachievers, they play sports, they're in clubs and team in school," she explains. "Sometimes those pressures can be kind of overwhelming for kids as well."
Talking to kids is the first step, said King, and if they need help they should be taken to a mental help professional, who is trained in helping with these problems.
"Counselling in and of itself teaches, the design is to teach coping strategies, teach things that are going to be helpful with your everyday life."
Pyke said the goal is to encourage and open conversation about mental health and help student re-integrate back into the school setting after they've death with the difficulties they're facing.