I was talking with a Head of School recently and he told me that a mother and two children returned home after an admission event at school to find their husband and father had committed suicide. This brought to mind the fact that USA Today recently put up a provocative slide about suicide amongst young people. It reports that suicides amongst 10-17 year olds has increased by 70%+ over the ten years 2006 to 2016.

The CDC now reports that 4,600 children now lose their lives in this way each year – the 3rd leading cause of death amongst 10 – 24 year olds. That is the tip of the iceberg – each year c. 157,000 are treated at emergency departments for self-inflicted injuries. Let’s take that down yet another level. A Gallup Poll in Australia found that hope declines as students move through school – only 45% described themselves as hopeful about the future. In the USA, Pediatrics journal carried out a study showing that the number of teens with a major depressive episode jumped from 8.7% to 11.5% in the ten years 2005-2014. In my own life, school medical services have jumped from a box of band aids in the 1970s to full-time nurses and other professionals seeing a steady stream of students.

As teachers, we can make a difference. While the above is all very depressing, it does not have to be that way. Here are some suggestions for making a difference:

  • Greet every student by name every day
  • Practice mindfulness for a minute at the beginning of every class
  • Encourage deep talk in your home room or advisory that gets beyond the surface
  • Eliminate “but” from your vocabulary and replace it with “and”
  • Laugh at least three times in every class
  • Love what you do; love the students with whom you do it

I’m sure you can create your own list. Write it up, discuss it with your students and put it in a public place and hold yourself accountable to it. A child’s life might depend on it.

Simon Jeynes