Over 150 parents and students attended the Huntington Beach Union High School District (HBUHSD) Parent University class “13 Reasons Why Not – Preventing Teen Suicide” on February 5 at Marina High School. The class, presented by Wellness Specialists Kylie Bernstein and Kayla Perkoski, shared important information about preventing teen suicide—a topic that has gained media attention due to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

“There is this myth that people who talk about suicide will not actually do it,” said Bernstein. “However, four out of five people who have attempted suicide, have talked about it.”

The presentation included information on how to recognize warning signs, risk factors, ways to respond, and available resources. Dr. Dan Bryan, Director of Student Services, was also on hand to help facilitate questions from parents and students.

Below is some of the information and resources distributed during the presentation.

Warning Signs
  • Person talks about wanting to die, feeling hopeless, being a burden to others, etc.
  • Concerning behaviors such as: increased use of drugs/alcohol, decline in academic performance, withdrawing from friends & family, giving away possessions, calling/texting to say goodbye, writing a suicide note, searching for ways to end his/her life
  • Person feeling depressed, irritable, angry, anxious, humiliated, etc.
  • Preoccupation with death and dying in conversations, social media, art, writing
  • Sudden changes in appearance, hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings
Risk Factors
  • Mental Health factors: depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia
  • Substance abuse problems
  • Chronic health conditions or diagnosis of a serious condition
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Access to drugs, firearms, etc.
  • Prolonged stress at work, from bullying, relationship problems
  • Exposure to someone else’s suicide or seeing/hearing graphic information about suicide
  • Stressful life event – grief, divorce, losing a job
  • Family history of suicide or previous attempts by the individual
  • History of abuse or trauma
Parent Support to Promote Protective Factors
Prioritize the Positive  Be mindful that not all of your interactions turn contentious. You can prioritize interacting with your teen in positive ways by making time to do fun things together or chat about things that aren’t controversial, that aren’t difficult.

Minimize Conflict Set limits, but the rest of the time focus on the positive connections. Parents have the opportunity to reassure struggling kids that they won’t feel like this forever, and you can help do this by promoting positive experiences. When kids feel suicidal it’s often because they feel hopeless and can’t imagine things being better.

Spend Quality Time with Them Set aside time each day to talk—time when you’re focused totally on your teen. The simple act of connecting face to face can play a big role in promoting teen’s mental health.

Help Them Find Effective Coping Strategies Encourage them to utilize positive, healthy coping skills like music, exercise, writing, art, being involved in a sport or club, etc. Try not to take away any of their positive coping skills as a means of punishment for poor grades or bad behavior.

Allow Access to Mental Health Support – If you see that your teen is struggling, don’t hesitate to offer support from a professional early on. Contact your insurance to see which therapists/psychologists are within your network or reach out to support staff at school.

For Students – How to Respond to Friends (pdf)

For Students – Support & Safety Plan (pdf)

For Parents – Handout (pdf)

Resources
National Suicide Prevention: 800-273-8255
Free – 24/7 – English/Spanish – Confidential
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Crisis Text Line: Text SAFE (7233) to 741-741
Free – Confidential
Crisis Assessment Team OC: 866-830-6011
(will visit individual homes with the support of local law enforcement)
Didi Hirsch Suicide Prevention Center: 877-727-4747
Available 24/7
didihirsch.org/chat
CA Youth Crisis Line: 800-843-5200
Students anonymously report safety concerns, bullying & suspicious behavior
EHS TipTxt: 714-462-4793
FVHS Safe 2 Speak: Go to FVHS.com > “Students” tab > Safe 2 Speak form
HBHS Text to Tip: 714-462-4789
OVHS Text to Tip: 714-462-4792
WHS We Tip: 1-800-78-CRIME
For emergency situations, please call 911.