In recent weeks, our community has been rocked by the loss of students to death by suicide. These are heart-wrenching losses that leave families, friends and our educational team searching for answers that we’ve been told by many experts and survivors are likely never to be found. Even so, I have watched our team of 6,000 employees search within themselves and their individual job responsibilities for any and every way that they can show care to our students on a daily basis.
I’ve also shared many conversations with families who have asked for resources and support in better understanding the signs and symptoms of teen depression, and creating hope for our young people.
Many support structures are in place on our campuses (which can be read about on our website at www.cusd.com), and we are partnering with our local healthcare community to create a series of parent resource fairs and other opportunities early this year. These events will be designed in a way to connect parents with knowledge about mental health resources for students and families that exist in the community and in our schools. Watch for more information from your neighborhood school about these events in the coming weeks.
In addition, I’d like to share the following lists from the Families for Depression Awareness about some of the signs to watch for in teens that may indicate serious depression.
▪ Decreased interest or enjoyment in once-favorite activities and people
▪ Changes in appetite, eating too much or too little, significant weight gain or loss
▪ Sleeping too much or too little
▪ Depressed, irritable, sad or empty mood for at least two weeks
▪ Physical agitation or slowness
▪ Fatigue or loss of energy
▪ Low self-esteem, feeling guilty
▪ Decreased ability to concentrate, indecisive
▪ Unexplained aches and pains
▪ Recurrent suicidal thoughts or behavior (seek immediate medical help if this is the case)
▪ Irritable or cranky mood, preoccupation with song lyrics that suggest life is meaningless
▪ Loss of interest in sports or other activities, withdrawal from friends and family, relationship problems
▪ Failure to gain weight as normally expected
▪ Excessive late-night TV, having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, having trouble getting up in the morning
▪ Inability to sit still, taking a long time to complete normal tasks, pacing back and forth, and/or excessive repetition of behaviors
▪ Social withdrawal, napping, withdrawal from usual activities, boredom
▪ Making critical comments about themselves, having behavior problems at home or school, being overly sensitive to rejection
▪ Poor performance at school, drop in grades, frequent absences
▪ Frequent complaints of physical pain (headache, stomachache)
▪ Writing about death, giving away favorite belongings, making statements like, “You’d be better off without me.”
In recent weeks I have heard again and again of the importance of asking for help — from friends, from family, from any of those who care. I encourage all of us to keep this advice in mind and to reach out if we notice someone in our lives (or are yourself) struggling with depression.
Every one of our school sites have school psychologists, counselors and nurses available to families. These trained professionals can be accessed through self-, peer- or parent-referral and are ready to partner with families to support our students. Locally, parents can find resources as close as their phone at the Central Valley Crisis & Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (888) 506-5991 or online at www.suicideispreventable.org.
I invite everyone in our community to join together to show our youth that they are cared for and cared about, and to give every young person access to a hope for the future.