In recognition of Suicide Prevention Month, the BSA has released a video and discussion guide designed to be used at a September meeting of any of the BSA’s programs for older youth: Scouts BSA units, Venturing crews, Sea Scout ships and Exploring posts.
The video and ensuing discussion is designed to take 15-20 minutes and could take place during one of the gatherings you already have planned for September.
The initiative was developed with the guidance of Laura Stone, the medical director of the day treatment program of the Center for Pediatric Psychiatry at Children’s Health in Dallas, Texas; and Michael McClam, medical director of the youth division of the Menninger Clinic in Houston, Texas.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other public health agencies observe Suicide Prevention Month each September. It’s a time to raise awareness about suicide as a serious public health problem, and to educate youth on resources that are available to them should they feel like they need help.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for America’s teenagers, behind accidents and ahead of homicides.
According to the CDC, suicide rates increased by approximately 36% between 2000–2021. Suicide was responsible for 48,183 deaths in 2021, which is about one death every 11 minutes.
The good news is that suicide is preventable. Treatment is available for suicidal thoughts, depression and other mental health concerns if you just know where to look.
What is in the BSA’s video?
The video (embedded below) is a 10-minute dramatic reenactment in which young actors depict the type of real-life conversations and interactions that can happen with young people who are having thoughts of self-harm.
The video is designed to be viewed in a group setting, with a post-viewing discussion facilitated by an adult. It is not meant to be viewed by a youth in a standalone viewing experience, and it is not meant to be viewed by a group of Scouts without the use of the discussion guide. The post-viewing, adult-facilitated discussion is required to put much of what the youth just watched into perspective.
“The following story deals with the agonizing subject of peer suicide,” says the voiceover that opens the video. “You’ll see how timely intervention can prevent a tragic outcome.”
The video then shows a period in the life of a young person named Maria who’s going through a difficult time in her life. We see her give away some research documents that she’s worked long and hard on. We see her feeling helpless in her own home as her parents get into an argument. We see her talking to a teacher who’s concerned about her grades, and then a counselor who’s concerned about her not qualifying for a college scholarship.
Eventually, she becomes ineligible to play on the school basketball team, and one of her friends, Rick, becomes overwhelmed and doesn’t know how to help her.
The video asks viewers to think about how they would respond if they were to encounter a similar situation.
You can watch the video in its entirety below.
If you’d like to download the video so you can show it to a room full of Scouts without worrying about a spotty internet connection, you can do that here.
What’s in the discussion guide?
Unit leaders who choose to dedicate a portion of a September Scout meeting to this topic should download the discussion guide and read it over before showing the video to youth.
The guide suggests post-viewing discussion questions such as:
- What were some of the signs that Maria exhibited which led Rick to suspect that Maria was considering harming herself or taking her life?
- Recognizing that people respond to life’s challenges in different ways, what are other signals that may indicate suicidal thoughts?
- If you were in Rick’s position and trying to get help for a friend, where might you go in your community to get the help?
The guide lists the warning signs for suicidal ideation, including talking or writing about suicide, withdrawing from family or friends, open distress and restlessness, and irritability and displays of anger.
What should I do if I feel that someone I know is thinking of suicide?
The BSA guide recommends using the A-B-C’s of support.
Ask them if they are considering harming themselves.
Be there for them. Listening to a friend in crisis is one way to help support them.
If you or anyone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call or text 988, or chat with them online at any time. There is also a dedicated number in Spanish: 1-888-628-9454.