The fight against teen suicide begins in the classroom | Brittni Darras | TEDxMileHigh


Translator: Tual Şekercigil
Reviewer: Hélène Vernet It was April, 2013, and I was one month away
from completing my first year of teaching. I was at a barbecue when I got the call. It was a number I didn’t recognize
but something compelled me to answer it. My administrator was on the other end. This couldn’t be good. Administrators never call
their teachers on Sundays. She told me that school follows a process when something happens
to one of our students. The first step is informing
that student’s current teachers. In that moment, I could picture every
single one of my students. I wondered which one is it,
what happened, and most importantly, are they okay. She told me his name. She said there was an incident,
he was taken to the hospital, and it didn’t look good. I asked if there is anything
I could do to help. Could I send flowers?
Did he want visitors? I was 22 years old and I failed to understand
the severity of the situation. It was too late. My 16 year-old student
died by suicide. I was devastated. No teacher, no parent, no human should ever have
to attend a child’s funeral. I was also shocked.
How could I have missed the signs? I had seen him almost every day
for the past nine months and he seemed fine. Over the next few years,
I was more observant than ever, trying to make sure
I didn’t miss those signs again. Were any of my students
less talkative than usual? Had anyone withdrawn
from their friend group? Did anyone seem sad? It was March, 2016, almost three years after I lost
my student to suicide, that I realized watching
for signs alone isn’t enough. I was at a parent-teacher conference
and a parent approached my table. Her daughter had been absent
from my class for two weeks, and I didn’t know why
until that night. My student was in a mental health hospital. She had not only planned
to take her life but in the process of doing so when the police received
an anonymous report saying that she might harm herself, she had deleted her social media accounts
and left goodbye letters. She had prepared to leave the world. If it wasn’t for that report,
my student would not be alive today. But the police were able
to break in, save her and bring her to the hospital. I was heart broken. This was the second time in three years
that I had a student who is suicidal, and there were no signs. How could somebody
who is so beautiful, intelligent, hardworking and friendly,
want to take her own life? She seemed so happy. But that’s what everyone says
after it’s too late. In that moment,
sitting across from her mom and tears in on both of our eyes, I knew I had to do something. So, I asked permission
to write my student a letter, and her mom agreed
to bring it to the hospital. I said a lot in this letter. I told her she has a contagious smile that brighthens the lives
of those around her. I told her I loved how she always put
the needs of others first. And I had noticed
that she always was willing to help someone else on their homework
before starting her own. I told her the reason why I kept
so many of her projects was because she was a perfectionist. She has gone above and beyond
the minimum requirements and produced phenomenal results that I wanted to show
to my future students. Finally, I told her I missed her, that our classroom wasn’t
the same without her, and that I couldn’t wait
for her to return to school. But when my student got the letter,
her reaction wasn’t what I expected. She cried. She didn’t know how somebody
could say such nice things about her, because she didn’t think anybody
would miss her when she was gone. According to the American
Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,000 Americans die by suicide each year. That’s the equivalent
of one suicide every 12 minutes. In addition, for each suicide,
there are 25 more attempts. That means there are over
1 million suicide attempts – not plans but actual attempts –
in the United States in just one year. The Centers for Disease Control
and prevention suggests that there’s been an increase
in annual suicide rates since as early as 1999. In 2014, suicide was the second
leading cause of death for people ranging from
10 to 34 years of age. I’m sure there is a million
reasons and theories for the increase in suicide
among young people; but the bottom line
is our kids are killing themselves and it has to stop. So, what do we do
about the increase in suicide for children who are 18 years
of age and younger? I believe it starts with teachers. As teachers, we see
our students every single day. Sometimes, we see our students
more hours in a day than their own friends and family. We worry about them at night
and we think about them on the weekends. We care deeply about
their success and happiness. But sometimes, teachers
worry about crossing an ethical line. They’ve been told it’s better
to be professional and maintain boundaries than react and respond
to student emotions. So, they stick to the job description: teaching curriculum, grading homework, assigning the assignments
and preparing for standardized tests. Academia revolves around criticism. We search for mistakes,
write suggestions for improvement and hope that will lead
to better test scores, better essays and better students. But the problem
is that these kids are not robots. They are human beings
with human emotions and feelings. On top of the stress of academics, there are social pressures, family
issues and the need to fit in. Feedback on an essay
may help improve their writing. That’s true. But realistically speaking,
five years from now, how many of my students are going
to remember the assignment I gave them, let alone my critics. I believe what these students need more
than a score on a test or worksheet is love and support. They need to know someone cares. All I knew was if I already
lost one student to suicide, and I nearly lost another, I was certain there are other
students in my classroom who are dealing with similar struggles
even if they didn’t say or show it. So, I decided to take action
not just for one of my students but for all of my students. I sat down and begin
writing personalized cards to all 130 of my students. It was two months of constant writing
but I was determined for each student to know what made them
special and unique. I wanted them to know that no matter
what struggle they were facing, they make a difference in this world
and somebody has noticed it. After I finished writing the cards, I took a picture of them
and I posted it to Facebook. I post a lot about
my experiences as a teacher but this post was different. Within 24 hours, complete
strangers were sharing my post. Within 48 hours, students
were coming into my classroom to thank me for cards
they hadn’t even received yet. (Laughter) Before long, I had
an interview with the BBC, and articles were soon been posted online
in languages I couldn’t even read. (Laughter) Questions started pouring in, but some questions
were asked above the others. One question was: “How did you find nice things
to write about 130 teenagers?” (Laughter) And even more so,
“How did you find nice things to write about the students
who are failing your class?” My response: “It was easy,
and the cards I wrote for failing students were probably
more important than the rest, because a student who is failing needs that positive acknowledgement
more than anybody else. Just because they’re failing doesn’t mean
they don’t have other wonderful qualities. Just because they’re failing
doesn’t mean they are a failure.” Last year, a student walked
into my classroom in the second month of school, saying that she was already
failing four classes. I told her mine wasn’t going
to be one of them. So anytime we had a major
assignment coming up, I asked her to hang out
with me after school and we worked through
the assignment side by side. She barely passed both semesters
but she passed. In her card, among other
things, I told her, her ambition and determination amazed me. I also told her I enjoyed
the afternoons we spent together and I loved hearing her stories
about her friends, family and band. She was so passionate about band. On the last day of school, I asked her if she’d considered
going to college, and she was shocked. She said it was the first time
anybody had ever said that she was capable of going to college. That’s what happens when we label
failing students as failures. They believe it even if it isn’t true. But instead, if we can give them
something positive to focus on, they could give them an entirely
different future to live into. The process of writing these cards has profoundly impacted the way
I think about my students, and the people I interact
with on a daily basis. In anticipation of my new yearly tradition, I have got into the habit of looking
for the good in my students throughout the year. I noticed things I wouldn’t otherwise,
because I trained myself to see the things that others might not. Instead of just a “distraction
to the classroom,” I see a student with a hilarious
sense of humour who enjoys the company of his peers
and likes to make other people laugh. Instead of just a “notoriously
tardy student,” I see a kid with drive and ambition who is balancing sports, a job and school, yet still manages to succeed in all three, even if it means
coming into a first period a little bit late
after a long night at work. Last January, my student
who attempted suicide returned from winter break
with a gift for me. It was a journal
and on the first two pages, she wrote me a letter. In it, she said, “Even days that seem
to be filled with gloom, have some positive aspect to them. Stars give even
the darkest of nights light.” She graduated last month
and is headed to college with a bright future ahead of her. If we can shift the academic
culture ever so slightly towards acknowledgement and encouragement, we might stand a chance to ending
this teen suicide epidemic, but it starts by taking action. We aren’t going to solve anything
by just looking for signs, because the truth is in many cases,
there are no signs. It’s so easy to point out the bad, to say what someone
can improve or change. Criticism is instinctual. It doesn’t require vulnerability. But we need to make this change
in the classroom and on a societal level. Instead of looking for the bad, let’s start to acknowledge
people strengths and what they do well. Let’s make that our default, not just as teachers, but as human beings. We can make a lasting
positive impact on others. We can end this epidemic
of suicide in young people. The answer is simply this: it begins with kindness. Thank you. (Cheers) (Applause)

100 thoughts on “The fight against teen suicide begins in the classroom | Brittni Darras | TEDxMileHigh”

  1. I swear was that girl the older version of me. Apparently I put others needs in front of me according to some people and I think no one is gonna miss me when I’m gone

  2. Literally none of my teachers actually care about my depression, except for my social studies teacher, but she still doesn’t give much support. My Math teacher is the worst, sometimes I cry during that class, because I hate it, but she just completely ignores me, and people notice me for like 10 seconds but don’t care, it just sucks.

    Also this vid needs more views.

  3. When your a teenager in highschool and you and all your friends want to kill all of your selfs.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story, it really helps open peoples eyes. If everyone gave someone a compliment it could really change their lives and help them live full out.

  5. These are the kind of teachers we need in this world. These are the kind of teachers that will change students lives forever!

  6. I am not a teenager. But a child. A child who isn’t aloud therapy. A child who’s parents don’t allow them to get a diagnosis. “You’ll be fine” “Don’t worry it’s a phase, you’ll get over it” I have being cutting for 2 years. I’m only eleven. I had one teacher, who’s name is Michelle Scarborough. Everyday when I seemed the littlest sad, she saw it. She noticed me, and tried to help as much as possible. I stopped cutting but my feelings got the best of me, and I started again. If my teacher didn’t notice my feelings, I’d most likely be dead. Michelle Scarborough changed my life, my last day of school, my last day of 5th grade. I cried, I didn’t want to let her go, because I knew that nobody could love me and notice those feelings like she did. I have depression, I’ve been diagnosed but my parents have no clue. Because someone else brought me, I’ve been diagnosed with Severe Depression Disorder, and a few more mental illnesses. I’ve attempted suicide once. Michelle Scarborough helped every student as much as she could, she not only allowed me to tell her stories and tell her what happened that morning before school had started, but she allowed me to stay in my comfort zone with learning and she made a space in her heart for me. I do believe that she will forget me and we will never meet again, but I know that I’ll remember her forever, because of her kindness and positivity. I wish I could thank her and hug her one last time. She has no idea how much she’s helped me.

  7. It's like every single teen is sad or depressed and that's awful… There has to be more of these amazing people

  8. When I was harming myself regularly I really wanted someone to notice, to ask what's up with the small scars on my arm, so I could finally get help. One day I was on a classtrip to a lake. My scars were easily visible and I was messing around with my friends.
    Then my teacher walks over to us to ask if we want cookies or something, I don't really remember. As she stands up, her eyes focus on my arm for a moment, she looks me in the eyes, I look back and cover it up with my other hand. She walked away and didn't ever ask about it, but the worried look in her eyes was leading to a thought: 'She cares'
    And this little moment has helped me a lot.
    I assume she had an idea of what I was struggling with, cause she had read a paper, that wasn't for her, which we had a talk about afterwards, so she most likely connected these things.
    I'm really happy that I haven't actually committed suicide and my suicidal plan stayed a plan.

    Sorry for this long story, I just really needed to write it down and to share it with anyone.
    Also sorry for bad writing, I'm a foreigner.

  9. The school system is flawed.
    In our school, we have something called Safe To Say. Although once we fall into depression, we won't tell anyone. Instead of telling on those who have it, we should work on preventing it. Give classes on what to do if your sad. Give motivational quotes. Have students sit with their favorite classmates. Just for a period. Have a conference about depression (ect) every once in a while.

  10. This teacher seems amazing… I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried throughout nearly the entire video. All throughout my last years of elementary school and high school I went through so many mental health issues. I was constantly self harming and attempted suicide once. I was struggling with realizing I’m trans, and battling with previously undiagnosed bipolar and ocd. However, there were no signs of this at all. I was a straight A student, seemed to have a good social circle and was always “happy”. Little did they know about how unhappy I was with myself, the rage that was bottled up, and all of the bullying that went on. Basically I was ignored by teachers or treated like a freak. No teacher EVER asked me if I was okay or if I needed help. I’m glad to say I’ve made so much progress and am much happier now. I’ve gone through therapy and am on mood stabilizers. No help was given by my teachers. I got help because I pushed for it. Some people aren’t strong enough to do that. Some people aren’t strong enough to fight for life, and a teacher reaching out or not being dismissive can make all the difference.

  11. My teachers never showed any signs of caring about me. I've only had one or two teachers in my life who noticed how depressed i am.

  12. This lady is absolutely incredible and inspiring!! I love to see how there is actually sunlight in humans and not just gloom. I had a teacher that told us that depression didn’t exist and we could just be happy. This left me feeling so sad since she doesn’t know how many kids are dealing with this and how they felt. They probably felt like they weren’t taken seriously and if they ended their life because of this, comments make a huge impact .

  13. Yeah but obviously it's cuz oh video games. I once jumped off of Maze Bank Tower in GTA 5 and my mom beat me up. Obviously im the violent one.

  14. I am watching this on the same day Desmond "Etika" Amofah commited suicide. He's been a real nice guy for a long time. He had a lot of incidents where we would be worried about his mental health. But now i guess it's too late. RIP Etika, my deep condolences to the Amofah family for their loss.

  15. My grandparents say your to young for all this you don’t know what it is it’s fake you just think you have it bc other people have it

  16. People Don’t Want to
    Kill Themselves They Just Don’t Know How to Kill the Pain!!!!!!!!!

    Every Thunderstorm
    Runs Out of Rain!!!!!!

  17. in my psych ward, there were so many pretty, popular, beautiful and funny girls who looked so happy on the outside but it they were so unhappy and sick

  18. This is so true. I still remember how I expect for the semester review from the head teacher every time before the vacation start. From those two sentences I could feel someone cares and realised my daily effort.

  19. This was an emotional video to watch. Throughout high school, I attempted about four times. I still struggle so much with bipolar disorder and disability-level anxiety. My teachers were kind, but this woman goes above and beyond. I fully believe that a teacher like her could’ve made a huge difference in my life. I’ll never forget coming back to school after the first out of three hospitalizations, and feeling broken and forgotten. This woman has saved lives, I’m sure of it.

  20. This is so true…. Alot more needs to be done in classroom to stop suicide in young teens/Adults shes right… How else could she not be wrong… Theres no way to be wrong in this.. Ma'am i hope u can inspire more teachers to stop suicide… I truely believe u

  21. Examine the data. Suicide among teens (and children) is the lowest for any age demographic. It is highest among 40 to 60 year olds, about twice that of young people, which for some reason no one ever talks about. Suicide in general is substantially lower compared to the 70s and 80s. Because of the emotional nature of the subject the facts seem to get lost.

  22. kinda off topic but not really but this one popular girl who used to sit at my table group was talking to someone else and said “I only cut myself for attention” and the other person said “yeah I cut myself for clout”
    I don’t even-

  23. What I think is the most upsetting about not just school but society is how people don't start reflecting on their kindness [or lack of] until it is too late. Until someone has already attempted to take their life. Until someone tries to hurt themselves. It doesn't take much to say something kind to another person if you deviate from school grades. Everyone has a special little trait, but when your life and success is determined by a letter or number, your ambitions, personality, and even mental state suddenly don't matter.

  24. I had a teacher a few years ago who later became our principal that I will never forget. I sat by myself every day at lunch because I never knew what to say to anyone and if I tried to sit with people it was so awkward that they would eventually leave. I protected myself by pretending I liked being alone, but in reality, all I wanted to do was cry. This man apparently saw through my shell because he would randomly sit with me in the cafeteria and start singing. That’s not exactly a normal thing to do so at first I didn’t know how to react, but he always found a way to make me laugh. He was my principal in middle school so I don’t get to see him since I’m in high school now but I miss that crazy man so much. It’s because of people like him that other people seriously considering suicide don’t go through with it.

  25. School is teaching kids to be drones in a society. The mental health crisis and suicide rate among the young is our brain fighting back against something that is bad for us, it is a sign that society is making people mentally ill, and increasingly so. When i was a kid, and i was out in nature with friends you had no mental health problems, you had energy, you looked forward to things, you were never tired. The problems manifests when you are forced to school. And when you are forced into employment.

  26. Let people kill themselves. Why should society have to bother. Unless they wanna offer assistance. Nobody should be forced to live if they don't want to

  27. I'm pretty sure the fight against teen suicide begins with the parents, the day the child is born and it starts with love.

  28. Honestly if a teacher ever told me he believed in me, I would certainly try a lot harder to succeed and work hard

  29. Hello Government!!! Us tax payers needs Ms. Brittni Darras! She needs to go educate all the NEW and OLD teachers to figure out the sign and symptoms of our kids now a day, before they go out and teach our kids. There will be less kids out there dying!!!!!

  30. I have almost died 4 times by my own hand. Do you know when people started noticing the signs
    Well it was when I did up to school and my arm was bleeding.
    How many people cared enough to ask me what happened, almost all of them but only 3 people would talk with me about it.

  31. My counsellor found out that I was suicidal and now they are gonna tell my parents tomorrow. They arranged a meeting and I don't know how my parents are gonna react. (I even planned to take my life next week.) Please wish me good luck.

  32. I want to share it with my teacher
    But the only fear was that i would get resticated rather than getting letters from techers . Well its a dream come true 👏👏👏👏

  33. I’ve been struggling with suicidal thoughts for almost 5 years that’s really hard to say but my parents found out two years ago and haven’t done anything I don’t know what to do

  34. I can say from personal experience that the mental health system is broken and has the tendency to do more harm than good. School isn't much better because grades are put on a pedestal and most teachers ignore any underlying issues students have

  35. That teacher went above and beyond for her students. While most teachers haven’t done a lot for me. My 5th grade teacher was amazing when she would encourage me to write and read the stories to the class if I asked, she even would play a couple Kahoots that I made.

  36. Thank you for being an amazing teacher. I'm 25 and still question my abilities due to teachers labels from primary school

  37. The only time I can understand someone wanting to commit suicide is like the most crazy situations like multiple kinds of abuse bad conditions no type of relationships the real works but most people aren't going through all of that it's a few of those that in comparison is really minor to me
    I'm not a suicidal type I want to live even if I feel lonely tired starving all cuz nobody there for me all of that
    This is just….wow
    I come to this type of stuff but still can't relate or really get it

  38. Once I graduate high school, I plan on studying at college to be a teacher. I wanna be like Ms. Darras and see the good in the kids. Making them feel like failures will only make things worse.

  39. For those who are wondering what language that article was it is Croatian, and it felt really nice to see my language in a video with this theme since people here don't like to talk about this kind of things and it's amazing what the teacher did it really touched my heart

  40. we need so many more teachers in schools like her, a teacher who cares about kids who are suicidal and wants to help instead of ignoring you thinking you will get over it yourself or thinking it’s just a phase

  41. People Don’t Want to Kill Themselves They Just Don’t Know How to Kill the Pain!!!!!!!!!

    Every Thunderstorm Runs Out of Rain!!!!!!

  42. To think that teachers out there actually care about their students made me cry. I’ve forgotten that there are actually good people in the world and that overwhelms me.

  43. This was the most amazing talk I ever heard in my entire life.❤️The reason I wanted so much to become a teacher is exactly this.I want to help teenagers realize their worth and the fact that this world is not the same without them.
    I think that the teachers should be willing to help their students see their inner beauty and help them as much as they can to fight their demons by saying encouraging words to them and by making them feel loved.
    I hope that I will become like this teacher one day and that teachers will eventually stop being afraid of the burdens and they will finally show their real admiration and love to their students.
    Suicide could be prevented if teachers show kindness,love and support to their students and I can say that for a fact because sometimes I think that the love I received from some of my teachers almost saved my life and gave me strength when I needed it the most.

  44. For the first time in my life, i would want to be a teacher when I grow up.
    She gave me the desire to be and to help teenagers like me in the future. I have never considered being a teacher when I grow up. Just to say that i don't have the "best" example in my school. My teachers are so SO professionnal that it sucks. Fortunately, because of my country and religion, they dont think about suicide cause we dont have bullies. But just imagine if the conditions of life were different….and with these SO supportive teachers of mine, i don't even want to think about what could happen.

  45. mental hospitals don’t help. people may think they do but when i went to one only at 11years old i felt trapped and more alone. when i got out it was the worst because i had nightmares and everything but i don’t wanna explain everything but my opinion

  46. I recently just got over being rly suicidal, I have a rly hard time with school because of stress, depression, ect. I end up having a hard time rembering anything because of outside of school. I love singing and my chorus teacher called me "lazy and unwilling" Because I forgot lyrics and i would ask a friend to tell me what different notes where or what the lyrics are. I struggle with math and the teacher just nuged me over and forgot about me. I tried saying "I'm having a rly hard time with __ because of some stuff going on" Always got "just study when your not busy". I've just given up on school by this point. Second semester comes. I get new classes. I get called up to the office to get lectured because I'm " Not trying at all" Because I failed to classes. I get to first block, I'm thinking, ELA, my worst subject, first thing said to me by the teacher "Hey, what are your pronouns, and I'm here for you anytime". I asked to be excused and ran to the bathroom and cried, no one has ever said anything that kind to me. She made school so much easier. I still struggle a lot but yeah. I was on a random chat site and was talking to someone I don't know and will probably never see to say "Someone cares for you" To ease my mind. Damn school, take some notes please, there has been a total of 5 suicides in my district in the past 2 years, ik a girl who cuts and I heard a teacher call her "attention seeking" And laughed. Ugh.

  47. When I was having mental health issues in 10 grade I my friends they help me and two of my teachers they told me they are here for me if I need to talk to them I can and my choir teacher was there for me my junior year of high school I was getting builled she ask me before state festival wich is for high school choir in Arkansas or are final concert of the school year she ask me if I was ok i think it was my day or something like that I really don't remember and I told her she was the only one that really bevlied me that I was getting builled and my other two teachers ask what dose this have to do with the builled

  48. She looks like, sounds like, and acts like my history teacher from last year. She isn’t, but it reminded me of how lucky I was to have such a nice teacher. Probably would have failed that class if it weren’t for her.

  49. When I was 13, I attempted suicide by consuming a handful of my prescribed sleeping pills. I ended up waking in the morning to my mom nudging me, trying to get me up for school and it finally hit me what had happened in the matter of 24 hours. I remember sitting through every class, daydreaming of suicide and the aftermath of my passing. I was so convinced that once it happened, they’d announce I had passed away on the overhead speaker in the early morning and that was it. I relied on the thought that the teachers would be disappointed on me choosing to kill myself, leaving my unfinished work and failing grades. Watching this really put me back into the thought process I had over and over in every class almost everyday. Teachers would go quiet. They’d look at my empty chair. They’d have uncomfortable meetings about how to announce to the class about the situation and enforcing “suicide is not the answer.” They’d feel regret on the last moments they had of me in class. They’d feel bad about how they did their job. They’d question if they gave me too much work and made it worse. I never was convinced these options were possible. But whenever you choose to go, people you don’t think about you see everyday whether it’s at school or work, Will second themselves and sometimes even question on why they continue to exist. And that is so important to keep in mind, even on my bad days.

  50. im in a religiously divided family. i have a very bad depression… and i try to take out my anger and frustrations in music and meeting my friends… but my family keeps me from going outside… there was even a time my friends thought i was dead… i was hurt and still am from every possible direction… school doesnt help at all… my teachers are horrible… they will do anything to embarrass you in front of everybody… i tried to commit suicide once but unfortunately it was unsuccessful… sometimes i wonder will i ever get out…

  51. Honestly I wanna become an optometrist, but she’s making me change my mind to become a teacher, cuz I wanna be able to help and love and know that I could help and support a student who’s going through rough times

  52. at the age of 6 i almost attempted suicide before stopping myself. As a young immigrant child, children in my school didn't accpet me for who i was. many would neglect me, the teachers in my school could see my silent weeping and my miserble face everyday in school, but not one would care. I wouldn't talk at school, or say anything because of the insecurites and the anxiety i had. It's honestly horrifying to think at such i young age i had thoughts like that, to take my own life while i was just in kindergarden. thank you for talking about this situation, this is what we need in society, people like her.

  53. This video is a joke. America is mentally ill beacuse of money and addiction. Separation of class. If your family is not well off… your an automatic failure. We live in a system designed to fail only the rich will benefit from here on out.

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