Talking about suicide is key to prevention

Students at Hinsdale Central High School might have noticed some interesting things this week.

Footprints placed in the hallway led to the school’s new student services area, where teens can learn more about depression and how to get help in times of crisis.

“Lighthouses” placed throughout the school identified people who are serving as a “Beacon of Hope” to help someone in need.

On Monday, students were reminded during daily announcements of the number 988, the new Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, to contact for help with mental health, substance use and/or suicidal thoughts or plans.

The announcements encouraged students to help break the stigma surrounding mental health.

We commend the school for its efforts to recognize Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Almost one in five high school students reports serious thoughts about suicide and almost one in 10 reports a suicide attempt, according to the website for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The rate of death by suicide among 15- to 24-year-olds in 2019 was about 14 per 100,000 people, slightly more than one suicide for every 10,000 people in the age group, NAMI reported.

Common risk factors include a family history of suicide, a history of mental health conditions, substance misuse, social isolation and a history of traumatic experiences. People who are at more acute risk might talk about life not being worth living, express feelings of hopelessness or start saying goodbye. They also might be researching ways to die.

The good news is there are factors that can help protect others against suicidal ideation or behavior. Those who have effective coping and problem-solving skills, strong social and family connections, access to quality mental health care, support from religious or social communities and lack of access to means of self-harm are less likely to engage in these behaviors.

Helping to provide that support is where local agencies and schools — like Hinsdale Central — come in. Hinsdale is fortunate to have more than one option.

The Community House counseling center offers support for a range of issues, including depression, anxiety and trauma. The nonprofit helps support these services with its annual fundraiser, Walk the Walk for Mental Health, which also raises awareness in the community about the need for good mental health.

Teens and adults 18 and older can visit The Living Room in La Grange if they are feeling scared, anxious, angry, sad or just need someone to talk to. The Living Room is a safe place that offers trained peer recovery support free of charge from noon to 8 p.m. 365 days a year. The Living Room is managed by NAMI Metro Suburban in partnership with Pillars Community Health and Healthcare Alternative Systems, with funding from Community Memorial Foundation.

Plans are in the works to start construction on a new Living Room in a nearby suburb to serve younger teens.

In addition to the new 988 number, the Crisis Text Line at 741741 is still a free, confidential option available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for those who would like to begin a text conversation with a trained crisis counselor.

Community Memorial Foundation also created a Youth Suicide Prevention PSA that can be viewed on its website at

“There is hope. There is help,” the PSA states, with the hashstag #letstalkaboutit.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month ends tomorrow, but the conversation around suicide prevention must not.