A simple question has left me inconsolably in tears.
Would you rather a child die of suicide after you had been working with them in a Wellness Center for a year or have a child die of suicide without having worked with them?
The answer was easy. I would rather put all of my time and energy into trying to save a child in a Wellness Center and still lose them rather than be sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to let me help and not be allowed to. I imagine it's like a doctor on the battlefield with soldiers dying all around him simply because his hands were tied.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provided about $35 million in 2017 to fund research into “suicide prevention,” with another $68 million devoted to the category of “suicide,” according to the agency’s statistics. Either that work should be critiqued as invalid or we should be spending all our efforts to implement its findings with fidelity. Implementing one or two, here or there the way we are now is not working and if it would have research would have suggested that one or two may do brought forth valuable insights from research into what to do to prevent suicide. The conclusion was that it would require a comprehensive approach that includes nine strategies that when combined give the best possible chance at reducing suicide rates.
It is imperative that we implement all 9 strategies simultaneously with fidelity to determine if the prescription will work. If after implementing it someone would like to do a component analysis to see if a smaller prescription may suffice that could be an extension of the work but until then it is unethical that we do anything less.
You may imagine that the reason this is not already being implemented is because it would be too expensive, or the solutions don’t exist but you would be wrong. We know what to do, we have all the resources needed but we can’t get the go ahead.
The greatest need is in public schools. Putting Wellness Centers in schools is a proven method to mitigate on suicide, self-harm and other social-emotional needs. Palo Alto Unified School District has proven this solution by including all 9 strategies listed in the research. I’m bent on continuing to prove it right or advancing the research to find out what will.
If I can save just one life, save one family from the heartbreak of losing a child it will be worth it.
I don’t do this because it's fun or easy certainly not because its lucrative or a solid business venture. I do it because it's right. I do it because not enough of us are doing it and I’m doing it because it pains me to the very core to know that according to research, children will continue to die until we do.
I love the song The Sound of Silence, originally by Simon and Garfunkel but recently redone by Disturbed.
To me it speaks of our suicide prevention efforts, how it feels like no one is really speaking, no one is really listening, and nothing is really being done. To do something even though you know it won't be enough should not be congratulated but condemned.
"The Sound Of Silence"
Hello, darkness, my old friend
I've come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Within the sound of silence
In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
'Neath the halo of a streetlamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence
And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
No one dared
Disturb the sound of silence
"Fools," said I, "You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you."
But my words like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence
And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, "The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sounds of silence.
Let us all step forward individually, as families, and communities to help those around us who are suffering in silence. Let us help them so they don't feel as though they have been touched by the sound of silence.
Karmel Pehrson (Mel) received her Masters Degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University and completed coursework at the University of Utah for her BCBA- Board Certified Behavior Analyst towards a second Masters Degree. She taught in elementary behavior units for over 13 years and has worked in client homes using behavior strategies to treat Autism and comorbid disorders for 6 years. Mel was diagnosed with Bipolar at age 16 and is a suicide survivor. She is a single mother and 4 out of her 5 daughters have been diagnosed with special needs, including Schizoaffective disorder, Bipolar, Depression/Anxiety and Autism. She is also the mother to openly gay children and a proud Mama Dragon- fiercely standing up for and protecting all children. She founded HELP and Educate Us, which provides education and support to leaders and parents who love and serve children with special needs.