Suicide Prevention Needed Within Foster Care
Suicide prevention is an important and very prevalent topic of conversation currently. Obviously, 2020 has brought to light many of the cracks within the foster care system. One area of concern is mental health support for foster youth and their families. With mental health being difficult to immediately identify, how can we as a community help with suicide prevention?
The Loss of a Child
The loss of a child is a tragedy. Current studies show that children in foster care are four times more likely to attempt suicide than children outside of the system.
One chilling study surveyed 700 California 17-year-olds in foster care from California. The report discovered that 41% of foster youth surveyed thought about death by suicide and one-quarter have attempted taking their own life.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to disrupt life, suicide prevention and harm reduction is more important than ever.
So, how do we reduce and prevent suicide within the foster care community?
Harm Reduction and Suicide Prevention
Acknowledging the need for support in this area is the first step. The foster care community needs more government funding to help combat the underlying issues that increase the risks of suicide. Suicide often follows depression, a history of trauma, maltreatment, abuse, and lack of social support. One of the most common reasons for children entering foster care is neglect, maltreatment, and abuse. Knowing these truths makes it easier to see why children in foster care have increased suicidal thoughts and attempts.
There is a need for foster care organizations and agencies to create stronger procedures to identify children who are at risk of self-harm and suicide. Therefore, creating systems that help reduce harm and offer support on the front end will have huge longterm benefits.
A recent article in the Perspectives on Psychological Science discussed the value of suicide risk assessments for foster youth, stating that public welfare organizations are overwhelmed.
Everyone wants to make sure these kids aren’t dying by suicide, but in a system with not a lot of time and not a lot of resources, it often is not prioritized.
In conclusion, we encourage anyone who is a foster care advocate to ask how their local DHS is supporting suicide prevention within the foster care program. What procedures are in place to reduce harm? How can we create legislation to combat suicide among foster youth?
As always, we appreciate your commitment to helping foster youth. Make sure to stay connected with all things related to the foster community HERE.