It’s National Suicide Prevention Month: After 16 Year-Old Elyssa Took Her Own Life, Her Family Made It Their Mission to Save Other Young Lives. Here Are 3 Ways You Can Help The Cause
Elyssa Meyers was just 16 years old when she died by suicide in 2004. She’d been struggling with depression and exhibiting some warning signs of suicide to friends and peers, who didn’t know what to do.
After she took her life, her friends were overcome with regret, wishing they’d known how to help. Elyssa’s parents, Joanne and Alan, quickly realized the lack of suicide education in our schools—and they set out to educate teens about depression and suicide and help other kids notice the warning signs (in themselves and in others) and empower them with the tools needed to seek help.
That’s how Elyssa’s Mission—a community-based organization focused on providing resources to help prevent teen suicide—was born.
“Most suicides are preventable,” says Jodie Segal, director of Signs of Suicide (SOS) Programming for Elyssa’s Mission. “Most kids exhibit signs, but you have to know what to look for and what to do.”
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, which is why we asked Segal to share her best advice on what all of us can do to educate ourselves about this important topic and do what we can to help our nation’s youth.
3 Ways You Can Help Move Humanity Forward
1. Know how to help a kid in need. What more of our children need to know is that the best way to help someone who’s showing warning signs of suicide is to get a trusted adult involved ASAP, says Segal. “The program Elyssa’s Mission funds in schools across Illinois is called Signs of Suicide (SOS)—a national, evidence-based program implemented in schools that’s been shown to reduce suicide attempts by as much as 64 percent,” she says. This program educates kids about the signs of depression and suicide (depression is the leading risk factor for suicide), and even offers screenings to help identify at-risk kids. “If you can get a child treatment at the depression stage, you can help prevent suicide,” adds Segal.
2. Understand we’re all affected. Chances are your kids or grandkids (or their friends) will be impacted by suicide at some point. It’s an issue that can happen to anyone. “If people think it doesn’t impact them, I often say ‘It doesn’t impact you until it does,’” says Segal. “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business.”
3. Help spread the word. “We have to educate more students about the signs of suicide, as they’re often the first ones to notice it in their peers—even before most parents do,” says Segal. The SOS Program is in schools across the country, and if it’s not in your child or grandchild’s school, mention it to a school administrator or bring it up at a school board meeting, suggests Segal. “It’s so important for all of us to be aware that suicide prevention programming exists,” she says. “And all of us can be proactive and advocate for it. Simply ask the school principal or social worker, ‘Are you doing suicide screening and prevention?’ And if they’re not, ask why!”
If your school isn’t on board yet, Elyssa’s Mission has an incredible training resource for parents that you can watch here.
“We’re all in this together,” says Segal. “We know the work we do at Elyssa’s Mission is making a difference. And all of us can make a difference by educating ourselves and having these important conversations.”