Reduce the Risk of Teens Dying Young!

April 8, 2015 at 3:56 PM Leave a comment

We first got the approval and advice of our administrators, school psychologist and counselors  – it’s touchy stuff, but turns out talking about these preventable forms of risk really does help impulsive teens think through life-changing decisions ahead of time.

A guess-and-check approach works really well – time to expose prior understandings and attitudes, and perhaps be surprised and intrigued. Along the way, students might also learn how to interpret data and bar graphs more accurately.

So what ARE the real risks of death for all Americans? You could do a card sort of their ideas, or have them make a list of the top 5 on white boards at each table group. Here’s the CDC mortality data to check their ideas against – includes for the whole US and by state.

What about the top causes of death for American teens? Here’s the CDC data on mortality of 12-19 year olds.

And now, the big question: How could the top 3 causes of death be prevented? Giving some choice which to investigate allows students to quietly avoid a cause of death that hits too close to home. Here are some links for them1. Motor vehicle traffic accidents 2. Homicide, 3. Teen suicide. Students took notes into a Venn diagram, where they were looking for contributing factors. I’m including a partially completed one here.2. Venn Contrib factors to teen death. This could work well with big white boards at their desks too, or in notebooks then to the front. The Venn diagram helps to find contributing factors that might help reduce risk in two or even all three causes of death.

Allow about 10 minutes, not too long, not too deep.

A word of caution around discussion of suicide – this may be a very touchy subject for some students who are themselves stressed, depressed or who have suicidal ideation. Others may have had their lives touched by suicide. Set ground rules that no specific personal stories with named/identifiable people may be shared by students to the class. Be sure to treat suicide in a matter-of-fact way. Don’t tell stories or let students share stories that could glorify suicide. But know also, that the research strongly supports talking about suicide openly, being clear that there is effective help available (and sharing what that help is at the school site and help lines), and that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Here’s a resource about effective help from friends, parents and schools. I’m going to distribute the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website and cards that have helplines on them to all students because you just never know who is at risk.

What are some common contributors to the risk of death for several causes of death? Alcohol and drugs are likely to be in there. Stress, depression, bullying (particularly around LGBT issues) and availability of firearms may be there too. Interesting and empowering stuff.

Once the common contributors have been identified, it becomes easier for students to think of truly effective ways to prevent at least some of the tragedy of teenagers dying.

This lesson segues into the “Risk Scenarios” lesson that makes these dry statistics much more immediate by reading and discussion realistic (fictionalized) stories for our particular community. I’ll blog about that shortly.

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Entry filed under: Education Psychology, Sex Ed. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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