Our communities lost two teens to suicide in September. For their family and friends, their classmates and neighbors, for all of us, the loss of these promising young people is beyond tragic. That their deaths occurred during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month adds sting.

We must do more -- collectively and individually -- to understand the risk signs of suicide, take preventative action and provide support. First, let’s acknowledge the depth of the problem as documented by the Wisconsin Department of Public Education:

  • 1 in 4 high school students feels he doesn’t belong in his school. (And it often is a he because boys die by suicide four times more than than girls do.)

  • 1 in 3 high school girls and 1 in 6 boys reports symptoms of depression.

  • 13% of Wisconsin youth report seriously considering suicide.

  • Wisconsin had the 14th highest rate of suicide in youths among all states (age 5-19) the first four years of this decade.

Fortunately, local school districts are taking steps to address this crisis, adding mental health services and education, providing teachers suicide prevention and intervention training. Since studies show that students are most likely to turn to their peers than to teachers, schools also are starting to offer young people training, too.

Grants are helping districts launch these efforts, but grants don’t last forever. That is why long-term community support and understanding are vital.

Here’s what you can do:

● Know the facts. Learn the risks in your own school or community by visiting dpi.wi.gov/sspw/yrbs/online.

● Get students talking: You don’t have to be part of the school system to engage with teens.

● Get students moving: Incorporate physical activity whenever possible. Active students tend to have better overall health.

● Get students interested: Mastery in any given area is a key part of resilience.

● Get students together: Social gatherings and extracurriculars are an important protective factor.

And don’t forget to address an immediate need. When in doubt, get help. If someone you know is experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 800-273 TALK (8255) to talk or text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.

Anything that you can do to make young people feel seen, heard and valued plays a role in suicide prevention.