Whytecliff is designed to promote positive mental health, rather than treat serious mental illness. The World Health Organization (2014) defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Working from this, a positive perspective allows us to unearth and develop students’ potential and encourage protective factors in their life.
How Whytecliff Can Help Kids With Suicidal Thoughts
Whytecliff offers the BC Ministry of Education accredited curriculum leading to a British Columbia Certificate of Graduation. Whytecliff also incorporates the new BC Curriculum’s intellectual, personal, and social-emotional proficiencies, with a special emphasis on youth development as well as positive mental health and wellness.
Adolescence is a time of change, when young people may experience stress from many sources, including relationships with friends and family members, challenges with personal and sexual identity and problems at school. Many adolescents report thinking about suicide, and suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people ages 13 to 19 years.
There are a number of specific risk factors for suicide:
● Depression and/or other mental health problems
● Interpersonal loss (break-ups, death of a friend, peer rejection)
● Alcohol or drug use
● Acute conflicts with parents
● School problems and academic stress
● Feelings of personal isolation
● Difficult life situations (abuse, trauma, bullying, cyber-bullying)
● Drifting (being not in school or working, lacking predictability and structure)
For any child attending Whytecliff with a prior history of attempted suicide or being identified as a suicide risk, Whytecliff staff work with designated professionals to create a six-step safety plan including: identifying warning signs, individual coping skills, people and places for distraction, people to contact for help, professionals to contact for help, and steps for safety (by decreasing the means of harm).
The Whytecliff program directly encourages primary protective factors associated with suicide prevention.
● The development of personal life skills (problem-solving, coping)
● Social support from family, friends, and others and direct involvement in a real therapeutic community
● Positive learning and school experiences
● The development of core personal gifts, talents and strengths for personal identity
● The development of self-reflective abilities, an awareness of choices, a clarification of personal values and a positive personal vision of the future.
In contrast to approaches that focus on deficits and problems, Whytecliff seeks to inspire positive engagement and hope, reducing suicide risk.