Learning Struggles and Suicidal Thoughts?

For a number of weeks, I have been struggling with this blog topic. How do I write a blog post on such a complex topic as suicide? Suicide is difficult to wrap one’s mind around. It torments those experiencing the suicidal thoughts. It’s excruciating for those attempting to recognize and support those struggling as well as for those left behind due to someone else taking their own life. Then, once again, I hear another news report on the topic of suicide. This time a 13 year old child takes her own life. And another—a 10 year old. The reason? From the news report it sounds like these cases were related to bullying.

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suicide is the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24? According to the CDC, that’s approximately 4, 600 young people (ages 10 to 24 year) lost to suicide each year. That does not include those that consider or attempt suicide. That number is far higher.

I realize there are numerous factors that may lead an individual to come to the point of considering,  attempting, or taking his or her own life. However, one factor I rarely hear discussed involves learning struggles and suicidal thoughts. Although it is a difficult topic, that is the topic I raise today.

You see…too many of my students have decided their worth is based on what they can or cannot do in an academic setting. Too many begin to feel they are incapable of learning and achieving what others appear to be able to learn and achieve with so much less effort. Too many of my students begin to buy the lie that the way to prove you are smart is by being able to read, write, and compute math problems on paper.  My students often have amazing and creative thoughts, but they often struggle to show those thoughts in written form. At times they may even struggle to articulate those thoughts in a way that others can truly understand their incredible ideas.

According to a recent Canadian study, “People with learning disabilities — particularly women — had a much higher rate of suicidal behavior than did the general population” (as cited by Frye, July 2017). The lead author of the study, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, states, “Adults with learning disabilities still had 46 percent higher odds of having attempted suicide than their peers without learning problems, even when we took into account a wide range of other risk factors.” Fuller-Thomson continues, “ Our findings of the strong link between learning disabilities and suicide attempts provide an additional reason to prioritize the early detection and timely provision of effective educational interventions for children with dyslexia and other learning problems” (as cited in News-Medical-Life Sciences, June 2017).

With dyslexia affecting 80% to 90% of all individuals with a learning disability, we must do a better job of identifying and providing evidence-based instruction for those struggling with dyslexia. How can we not?


Tamera Boring