The idea of suicide prevention is a good thing as no one wants a fellow human being to take their life instead of getting the help they need. However, what prevention techniques are available that actually work?
Hope Witsell, an eighth-grade student in Ruskin, Florida, hung herself in her bedroom the day after agreeing to a “no-harm” contract. This type of contract is a suicide prevention technique where one agrees not to commit suicide and to call specific people and to talk to them until suicidal thoughts subside.
What is alarming is not only that the contract was ineffective, but that her parents were not consulted and left completely out of the picture. Hope’s teacher sent her to the principal’s office after seeing some shallow cuts on her thigh. She then saw the school social worker whom she had never met before and signed the contract. There is no evidence of any attempt to contact the parents about the contract or the visit with the social worker.
The parents are now suing Hillsborough County school district for violation of civil rights and “involuntary mental health counseling.”
“No-harm” contracts are not widely used these days, but some sort of risk assessment is probably now the most common method for the purpose of preventing suicide. This is known as mental health screening and one of the biggest programs is called TeenScreen. It starts with a series of questions geared towards determining if you are at risk for suicide or other mental health disorders. Despite the fact that these questions produce a high false positive rate, the main problem with TeenScreen is that the only solution offered by them is to put you in the mental health system which means that it is highly likely you will be put on dangerous mind-altering psychiatric drugs.
Antidepressants in particular produce increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior, as the FDA Black Box Warning states. In addition, 52% of children that committed suicide between 2000 and 2004 were either taking psychotropic drugs or had a history of psychiatric treatment, according to CCHR Florida’s study, “Child Suicides in Florida Associated with Use of Psychotropic Drugs. With the above information in mind, psychiatric screening and drugging are not the answer to teen suicide prevention.