The Boone Central High School Guidance Counselor doesn’t take suicide lightly. It’s not hard to tell by how many pamphlets Lynne Webster’s office has on the subject.
Webster hopes she succeeds in creating a platform for students to talk about the tough subject of suicide, a subject affecting many of them.
“That’s a permanent solution to a problem that is more than likely, temporary,” Webster said about getting students to open up.
September 2016 is also known as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, which helps promote resources and awareness around the issues of suicide prevention, how you can help others and how to talk about suicide without increasing the risk of harm.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among youth ages 15-24 and second leading cause in college students. One in five high school students report having seriously considered suicide and nearly one in ten students make a suicide attempt according to a survey by Nebraska Youth Suicide Prevention.
Webster has seen it first hand and doesn’t hesitate to take a threat seriously.
“If someone is suicidal, then I would just ask,” Webster explained. “I flat out ask kids, ‘Are you thinking about hurting yourself? Have you thought about this?’ And if they say well yes, then how often? What’s your plan? I mean all of those things, that’s what we use to gage how serious someone is about committing suicide.”
Understanding the seriousness of a threat is key in deciding how to treat the threat. Webster has been trained on what to look for and how to act on suicide threats. She said that sometimes it just takes one question for someone to open up and be honest about what they are thinking.
“Often times we will have someone who writes a poem that is pretty dark,” said Webster. “Then I will touch bases with them and they kind of laugh and say, ‘No, I was just in a really bad mood that day, I don’t have, I don’t think about that, I am ok.’ That is a pretty good indication that they probably are. Because another myth is that people who are suicidal don’t want help. That is false.”
Webster explained that in many cases, people do want to talk about their issues.
As Webster explained it, talking about the issues which lead to suicidal thoughts is like a sigh of relief. "‘Now I can tell someone. Someone is asking me. This is the door I have been looking for to talk about it.’ Because they don’t want to die most often, they just want their pain to stop.”
There has been improvements in the past years on how these situations are handled, but Webster says there is still room for more changes.
“What I would like to see is that it not be a taboo subject,” Webster said passionately. “I’d like to see it be open conversations with parents and children, with teachers, coaches, pastors, priests. That it is an open conversation and that it is not something that people are afraid to talk about. And I would love for kids to see that it is a temporary problem. It may seem like the biggest thing in world. But for kids to see that there is so much more life to see and if kids were able to see that then maybe they would be willing to get the help that they need.”
This year, Webster plans to focus on talking to the friends of students suffering with suicidal thoughts. She wants to emphasis that by telling an adult or someone who can help, friends will be helping in the long run.