University of Maine journalism student Kendra Caruso recently joined us for a Suicide Prevention Workshop both to learn about suicide and to gather information for a journalism assignment. We’re pleased she decided to share her work with us!
Preventing Suicides in School–
Highlighting a growing problem prevalent in Maine schools.
by Kendra Caruso
Walter Boomsma is a substitute teacher for the Piscataquis Community Elementary School. He has experienced firsthand the reality of suicide among the adolescent in the state of Maine, it’s why he teaches the Suicide Awareness and Prevention workshop that’s free for the public to attend but required for all school personnel.
LD 609 was enacted into law on April 25, 2013 and requires anyone who works for a school system in the state of Maine to receive comprehensive training on suicide prevention that’s research based, from bus drivers to teachers. Boomsma’s two-hour class meets the state mandate. The course he uses is a collaboration between the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
In Maine suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15 to 34 year olds and 16.14 people die per 100000 residents compared to the national average of 13.26 in 2015 according to the CDC.
Boomsma talks about bullying as one of the leading causes of suicide among adolescents in his workshop and social media has made it easier for bullies to access their victims. Boomsma talks about how to address a suicidal child being bullied. Victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to be suicidal than people who don’t experience bullying, according to a study by Yale University.
Hailey Cipullo of Abbot is an eighth grader at the Piscataquis Community Elementary School and has been the victim of bullying herself. She never experienced suicidal thoughts but lost a friend she went to a summer camp with to suicide because of bullying. She didn’t even know her friend was experiencing suicidal thoughts. Cipullo doesn’t blame herself for not realizing what her friend was going through. Boomsma teaches not to self-blame for losing someone to suicide.
The LGBTQ community had a much higher risk for suicide ideation, 50 percent of bisexual youth experienced ideation and 25 percent attempted suicide, 40 percent of gay or lesbian youth experienced ideation and 21 percent attempted suicide, according to the Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey in 2013. Youth in the LGBTQ community are more likely to become suicidal if they are rejected by family.
Men are more likely to die from suicide but women experience ideation more, for one male attempt there are three female attempts. Men are more likely to kill themselves using violent means where women tend to us less violent acts such as taking pills according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.
Native American youth are more likely to experience suicidal thoughts with an average of 17 per 100000 residents compared to 12.1 for the whole US according to the NAMI and CDC course collaboration.
Boomsma experienced the tragedy of suicide first hand when his brother ended his own life but that’s not why he teaches this class. He teaches this class because of the affect suicide has on Maine’s youth.
Boomsma spends a few minutes after class when he gets home and thinks about how he may have trained someone who will save a life, “I think to myself, I may have saved a life tonight.”