‘Teen Suicide During COVID-19: The Second Crisis In Our Schools’ looks at how to solve a dire problem

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According to Chafouleas, there are no clear answers as to why there is teenage suicide, although she points out that schools are the lifeline for many students. One example she cites is the reopening of schools in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of @volkanolmez on Unsplash.com.

Yesterday, The Perkins Platform had University of Connecticut professor at the Neag School of Education and licensed psychologist Dr. Sandra M. Chafouleas to speak about teenage suicide during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is not something that is just popping up,” Chafouleas said when discussing Center for Disease Control data on teen suicide.  

According to Chafouleas, there are no clear answers as to why there is teenage suicide, although she points out that schools are the lifeline for many students. One example she cites is the reopening of schools in Los Angeles. Prior to the reopening, there had been a number teen suicides in Los Angeles, which was a partial reason for reopening schools. 

“There are things we need to improve. We need to strengthen things, but for many kids, schools are the lifeline and really the place where we can identify, connect and respond to in creating an emotional safety,” Chafouleas stated when responding to schools reopening in Los Angeles as a way for teenagers to be safe. 

During the interview, Chafouleas mentioned an idea of a ”behavioral vaccine” that may help students emotionally. 

“If we know right now in our American society we got some pretty substantial stressors and things that are going on –political unrest, COVID-19, growing recognition of systematic racism police violence –that means everybody needs to have a strength strategy in the emotional space,” said Chafouleas on the concept of a “behavioral vaccine.” 

“If we know right now in our American society we got some pretty substantial stressors and things that are going on –political unrest, COVID-19, growing recognition of systematic racism police violence –that means everybody needs to have a strength strategy in the emotional space,”

Dr. Sandra M. Chafouleas, UConn Professor, Psychologist 

She went to say how certain communities would need more ”behavioral vaccines” than others given the vulnerabilities of said communities.  

Towards the end of the interview, Chafouleas brought up a method for students and families to be successful at home during the pandemic. It is called the Four Ps method, and it features the following techniques. 

The first one is having a physical setup that is safe for teens where they can do their learning. Chafouleas also mentions that this setup must also fill the basic needs of students, such as food security. 

The second part to the method is a predictable routine for students to follow. An example of this is what students should expect from their teachers and learning styles in various environments, such as distance learning, hybrid learning or in-person learning. Chafouleas emphasizes teaching these routines to students so they can get used to it. 

Another element to the method is to have a positive relationship with someone in the student’s environment. Whether that be through a teacher, parents or other family members in a teen’s home, Chafouleas wants students to have the opportunity to create connections with everyone in their environment. 

The final step that was brought up in the method was pleasurable engagement. What this entails is what Chafouleas labels as “voice in choice.” This means that,  as the environment for learning changes, students would have a say as to what works so they can find the most amount of pleasure in their environment in order to be engaged with the learning taking place. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (800) 273-8255. If you are on campus, call the Student Health and Wellness Mental Health Number, (860) 486-4705. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911. 

Thumbnail photo courtesy of @pwign on Unsplash.com.

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