We fear and fight the wrong battles, missing the chance for real victories, chasing ghosts. Californians’ greatest educational anxiety is around school shootings, according to the latest polling. However, by far the biggest risk your child faces isn’t from someone else—it is from themselves.
A teen is 30 times more likely to die by suicide and thousands of times more likely to harm themselves in an attempt, than to die or be injured in a school shooting. We have met the danger and it is us, but we look outside ourselves. Rather than building bridges and support services we build barricades and install metal detectors.
My quick math, there were 3 school shootings in Ca last year—Santa Clarita, Santa Rosa, and Belmont, for a total of 3 senseless casualties and 4 injuries. The suicide rate for teens 15-19 was 7.1 per 100,000, which is up 34% over the last 3 years. And looking at the projections of 1,382,000 young people in that age range, that is around 98 young people that died by suicide. Not to mention all the pain and damage from failed suicide attempts, both discovered and undiscovered.
14% of Teens have a Suicide Plan
Mental health has been at a crisis stage for our youth, and it is getting worse, overall and with our most vulnerable youth, with Black student showing a significant uptick in suicides. Studies have shown that 14% of all teens have a suicide plan, 31% report suicidal thoughts, and 14% have an actual plan.
If you work with young people, there are kids in every class most likely—in that dark place—looking for a way out and seeing none. No support they feel like they can access, nobody telling them they will get through it, and helping them navigate the challenges. They have a plan.
Some will execute that plan, roughly 100 teens did last year.
But as we start figuring out where to spend money on schools, will those dollars follow our outsized fears or support our under-resourced best hope?
Unfortunately, I think I know the answer to this one.
Survey data below