Massachusetts educators are reeling in reaction to a new state survey that shows about 10 percent of high school students made some kind of suicide attempt in the past year, according to a March 1 story in the Boston Globe.
“We’re absolutely floored by our results,” Peg Burton, health and nursing services coordinator for Lawrence schools, told the Globe. “We had no idea. We knew that kids tend to think about and talk about suicide a lot, but this stunned us.”
Several guidance counselors told the Globe that the state Department of Public Health findings accurately reflect problems in their schools that, until now, have not been widely known.
“Ten percent is what we’ve seen on attempts,” said Linda Shapiro, who chairs the counseling department at Newton North High School. “People think suburban schools do college placement and chaperoning the prom, but to tell you the truth, we hear a lot about suicide attempts and gestures.”
The DPH study, reported in the Globe Feb. 28 and due out in May, asked a random sampling of 4,000 students from 58 Massachusetts high schools: “During the past 12 months, how many times did you attempt suicide?”
About 10 percent of the students said they had tried to kill themselves at least once, and 4 percent said they had made an attempt that required treatment from a doctor or nurse.
Even more students considered suicide than attempted it; about 24 percent of students had thought about it, and 19 percent had made a plan.
Some guidance counselors said the data reflect a world of pressure and despair that some students live in. “I’m seeing more students with emotional concerns than I saw five years ago,” said Clare Clark, president of the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association.
DPH officials said they hoped to focus public attention on the issue with their study.