By Joel Kraushaar
September is National Suicide Awareness month. Two weeks ago, a fifteen-year-old Cedar Rapids Jefferson student took his own life on the high school campus just outside an auditorium. The event caused a campus-wide lockdown. But it also raised questions regarding mental health.
In the Muscatine school district, student well-being is at the forefront of the staff’s mind. “Our staff is constantly working to know how students are feeling,” said Central Middle School Counselor Scott Mauck. “Teachers take it very seriously. We no longer just take the words with a grain of salt. If a student says they want to hurt themselves, our teachers get a counselor involved right away.” Mauck added, “When a teacher comes to us with a concern, we immediately begin the interview process, and that involves the parents.”
Friends are usually on the front lines of identifying problems. “We find that the power of friendship is amazing. Even when students may not be getting along, they still will tell us if they are concerned,” Mauck said.
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24. Research by the Jason Foundation states that more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined.
Also per the Jason Foundation, 4,800 children in grades seven through twelve attempt suicide each day across the world.
“We ask parents and students to pay attention. There are warning signs and we make sure we get involved as soon as we know about an issue,” said Mauck. “Suicide is a long-term and permanent solution to very short-term problems.”