Stories of teen suicides seem appear far too often on the news these days. Unfortunately, the news coverage reflects the fact that teen suicides have drastically increased in the United States and even Fairfax County. According to the Fairfax County Health Department, 98 youths within the ages of 10 and 24 committed suicide in Fairfax County between 2010 and 2015. These numbers are frightening to read, but there is hope. Thanks to the work of PRS Crisis Link and the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services board, there are now several Fairfax County programs and initiatives to help families and friends to identify the signs of suicide and prevent it all together.
If someone believes their child or loved one may be suicidal or dealing with a mental health issue, there are a number of places to find help. In any immediate, life threatening situation call 9-1-1 right away. However, for parents and guardians of teens who may be suicidal or experiencing a mental health crisis, PRS Crisis Link is a valuable resource. PRS has a 24-hour, confidential hotline which can be reached at 703-527-4077. They also have a textline that can be accessed by texting “CONNECT” to 85511. PRS Crisis Link offers crisis intervention, suicide prevention, and information on community resources to address their caller’s specific needs.
Another option available for immediate assistance is the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board (CSB) Emergency Services at 703-573-5679, which is also 24/7. In addition to suicide prevention, CSB offers a range of services for mental health issues, substance use disorders, and developmental disabilities. The CSB’s Merrifield Crisis Center offers walk-in screenings for emergency and non-emergency psychiatric cases. Their clinicians will determine the risk of a patient’s situation and help provide the appropriate services, which may include medication, detoxification, or even, in some cases, hospitalization at another facility. CSB can give parents and guardians proper guidance in navigating the mental healthcare system.
There are also opportunities for anyone who would like to receive training on suicide prevention and mental health first aid through the county. CSB offers free online classes called “At-Risk for Middle School” and “At-Risk for High School.” This training teaches educators and other adults in the community how to identify signs of psychological distress in youth and connect them to the right resources. The CSB also offers a two-day Mental Health First Aid class that “introduces risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems” and “teaches how to help someone who is in crisis or experiencing a mental health or substance use challenge.” The next Youth Mental Health First Aid classes will be held Monday, Nov. 4 and Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2017.
No one should struggle with mental health issues on their own, especially children and teens. PRS and CSB will be there for your family’s time of need. Everyone, including parents and educators, should learn the signs of suicide and save these phone numbers just in case. Together, our community can make a substantial impact on suicide prevention.