Speech-Language Pathologist, friend, advocate, counselor. SLPs wear many hats for our patients. That last one, counselor, is one we don’t get a ton of training for. I remember one or two classes that focused on the topic at a few points, but certainly not enough to feel prepared to help patients with significant mental health concerns. During any given year, 25 percent of adults and 20 percent of teens experience a diagnosable mental illness, yet more than half will go without services for their condition, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
No matter if you work with elementary student, high schoolers, or adult rehab patients, every SLP will experience clients with mental health issues. Some of those will be mild, but some might be significant. The vast majority of people with communication disorders are not at risk for suicide, and determining suicidal risk does not fall within the scope of practice for SLPs or audiologists. Although most of your clients are not at risk, you might experience it at some point in your career. SLPs are mandated reporters. Have you thought about how you would react if someone confided in you?
I’m not claiming to be someone who is experienced in helping those with mental health problems. Luckily, there are tons of resources for you! Start with this article from Donaher and Scott about making an emergency plan for what to do if this situation arises. Here are a few more
National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org
National Association of School Psychologists, bit.ly/nasp-suicide
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,www.cdc.gov/violencePrevention/suicide
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, www.afsp.org
National Institute of Mental Health, bit.ly/nimh-suicideprevention
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, bit.ly/va-suicide
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
I’m not an expert in counseling but my cousin, Shannon (who is a PT!), has some seriously awesome ideas for making a difference one person at a time. After suicide touched our family, she took action!
Shannon started a company with one mission… to let people know they matter. “My hope is that by wearing a shirt you may directly cross paths with somebody who is in dire need of this message. Maybe it will give them home to live another day, to seek help, to open up to their family and friends. Small messages can make big impacts on lives around us, let’s spread this message like wildfire!”
I’ve already worn my t-shirt and loved the smiles it got at the car dealership. A purple bracelet might lead you into a conversation with a client that makes a difference in his/her life. A chance to start a conversation and tell your student that he/she matters to you.
You can find the You Matter, LLC. shop on Etsy. A part of each sale goes to support suicide prevention. Take a peek and help spread the message!
Leave me a comment and let me know how you’re telling your students YOU MATTER!
Source: Be Prepared to Help At-Risk Clients. The ASHA Leader, May 2014, Vol. 19, 52-58. Donaher, J & Scott, L.
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