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Teen Suicide Prevention

Suicide Ideation and Teens

Posted by Sue Scheff on August 08, 2020  /   Posted in Teen Suicide Prevention

Myths of Teen Suicide Ideation

Understanding teen suicide, separating fact from myths:

Despite the efforts of the mental health and public health fields, suicide remains the third most common cause of death for adolescents 15-19 years of age (behind accidents and homicide).

Although facts such as these can leave us feeling hopeless, there are myths that may lead us to act inappropriately or not take action at all. By dispelling myths with currently known research findings, we can improve our ability to identify children at risk and more effectively intervene to prevent suicide.

Myth: Suicide always occurs without any warning signs.

Fact: There are disorders and behaviors that can be diagnosed and/or observed that can assist with identifying youth at risk for suicide. Depression is the single most significant psychiatric risk factor for adolescent suicidal behavior. Some predictors of suicidal events in treated, depressed samples of adolescents include a past suicide attempt and high baseline levels of suicidal ideation, agitation, and anger. Other significant risk factors for suicide in adolescents include other mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance use, and disruptive behaviors (such as conduct disorder and significant impulsivity). A recent study revealed that family conflict is also a significant contributor to suicidality in a depressed population (Brent et al., 2009). Further, a recent stressful life event in combination with a psychiatric condition is an increased risk for suicide attempts (Gould et al., 1996).

Myth: If you ask a child or adolescent about suicidal thoughts, you might put an idea into their heads, so you should not ask.

Fact: A recent multi-site study looked at predictors of suicidal adverse events in a population of depressed adolescents and found that relying on “spontaneous report of suicidal adverse events will underestimate the rate of events compared to systematic assessment” (Brent et al., 2009). In the study, they detected more suicidal adverse events, nonsuicidal self-injury events as well as more suicide attempts when the monitoring was conducted in a systematic manner. These findings suggest that not asking a child about suicidal ideation is significantly more dangerous than asking.

Myth: If an adolescent has made a suicide attempt in the past, they are not likely to try again in a more lethal manner. They are just trying to get attention.

Fact: While suicidal ideation alone would tend to over predict the likelihood of a suicide attempt, a previous attempt is a very strong indicator of high risk. A previous suicide attempt is the number one and two predictors, for boys and girls respectively, of a completed suicide. Some believe that adolescents who make a second attempt might just be dramatic, when in fact they are truly at risk of taking their lives.

Myth: Media coverage about suicide attempts or completed suicides does not impact suicidal behavior in youth.

Fact: Suicide contagion is real. There is an increase in suicide by readers/viewers when the number of stories about individual suicides increases, a particular death is reported at length or in many stories, the story of a suicide is placed on the front page or at the beginning of a broadcast, or the headlines about a suicide death is dramatic. It is important to not dramatize the impact of suicide through descriptions and pictures as this can encourage other adolescents to seek attention in the same way.

Of more recent concern is the use of the internet as a tool for attention and communication about suicide among teens. There is no research yet to understand the impact of cyberspace on youth suicide.

The National Institute of Mental Health has a website devoted to assisting the media with appropriate reporting of suicide (www.nimh.nih.gov/).

Myth: Taking medication for depression may make a child suicidal.

Fact: Although there is significant controversy about this issue, many researchers have found the opposite to be true. The introduction of the SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) in the 1980’s was believed to contribute to the steady decrease in suicides between 1990 and 2003. Following the institution of the “black box warnings” for SSRI’s, between 2003 and 2005, the prescription rate of SSRI’s for adolescents dropped 22% in the United States.

During this same period suicide rates increased in the Netherlands by 49% and in the United States by 14%. Several researchers have advocated the theory that the reduction in use of SSRI’s led to the increased rates in youth suicide.

Myth: Once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Fact: While suicide prevention is still far from perfect, there have been a few agreed upon effective interventions. Those interventions that have been shown to be beneficial include physician education, means restriction, and gatekeeper education (Mann et al., 2005). Education of primary care physicians about the diagnosis and treatment of depression in children and adolescents is an important component to decreasing youth suicide.

By ensuring that youth do not have access to the most commonly used lethal methods of suicide we can decrease the number of completed suicides (firearms, pesticides, etc.). Although gatekeepers refer to such groups as the military, it is possible that schools can perform such a function. The Columbia Suicide Screen (www.teenscreen.org) has been utilized to identify suicidal and emotionally troubled students that would not otherwise be identified by school professionals.

Myth: Only a professional would be able to identify a child at risk for suicide.

ParentSupportsignFact: Parents, caregivers, and involved school personnel may be the first to notice changes in a child at risk for suicide. Some warning signs include those that indicate a severe depression and others that are particular risk factors for suicide. Some signs to watch for include: change in eating and sleeping habits, withdrawal from friends/family, violent actions, running away, substance use, neglect of personal appearance, personality change, boredom, decline in academic functioning, frequent physical complaints, lack of enjoyment in activities, and intolerance to praise.

Also, as per the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Facts for Families (www.aacap.org), a teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also: complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside, give verbal hints with statements such as: I won’t be a problem for you much longer, Nothing matters, It’s no use, and I won’t see you again, become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression, and develop signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts).

Although the rates of adolescent suicide are disheartening, by learning about the facts and making informed decisions, professionals and parents involved in the lives of adolescents can begin to make a difference.

Source: Bradley-Hasbro Children’s Research Center

If your teen is struggling and you have exhausted your local resources such as local therapy and outpatient help, please contact us for information on residential therapy.

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Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 24, 2019  /   Posted in Bullying, Cyberbullying, Featured Book, Mental Health, Residential Therapy, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Teen Suicide Prevention, Troubled Teens

Teen Suicide Rates Are Rising

A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shows over the last 20 years, 1.6 million kids ages 10 to 24 called poison control centers after attempting suicide; using prescription pills, street drugs and other household poisons.

By Jane Mersky Leder

My brother took his own life on his thirtieth birthday. My life has never been the same.

Thirty plus years after publishing the first edition of Dead Serious, this second completely revised and updated edition covers new ground: bullying, social media, LGBTQ teens, suicide prevention programs, and more.

Scores of teens share their stories that are often filled with hurt, disappointment, shame–yet often hope. Written for teens, adults and educators, Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide explores the current cultural and social landscape and how the pressure-filled lives of teens today can lead to anxiety, depression–suicide.

Leder’s own journey of discovery after her brother’s suicide informs her goal of helping to prevent teen suicide by empowering teens who are suffering and teens who can serve as peer leaders and connectors to trusted adults.

The skyrocketing number of teens who take their own lives makes Dead Serious: Breaking the Cycle of Teen Suicide more relevant and important than ever. “Talking about suicide does not make matters worse. What makes matters worse is not talking.”

Order Dead Serious on Amazon today.

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Are you concerned about your teen? Have they been struggling with depression? Becoming withdrawn? Have you exhausted your local resources — local therapy isn’t working? Contact us if you want to learn more about residential therapy.

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Mental Health Awareness Month: Teen Suicide Prevention, What Parents Need to Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on May 01, 2019  /   Posted in Featured Article, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Depression, Teen Help, Teen Suicide Prevention, Troubled Teens

Teen Suicide: Know the Warning Signs

By Mary Helen Berg, Your Teen Magazine

When Clark Flatt’s 16-year-old son killed himself with a .38 caliber pistol nearly two decades ago, no one in his community, school, or church was talking about suicide.

“We talked about drugs; we talked about bullying. No one ever mentioned teen suicide as a threat to my son,“ recalls Flatt, who today is president of the non-profit Jason Foundation, a suicide education and prevention organization. “If I had gone through and learned about the warning signs, I might not have thought ‘suicide,’ but I would have said, ‘I need to get some professional help for him.’”

Parents often think suicide can’t happen in their family and avoid talking about it. But teen suicide is now the second leading cause of death for adolescents, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Only accidents, including car crashes and overdoses, kill more people ages 10 to 24.

“Suicide doesn’t just happen to other people,” Flatt says. “It happens to the football captain, the head of the chess team, and the student body government leader.”

Preventing Teen Suicide

Talk about Suicide

It’s important to be direct when talking about teen suicide. If you have concerns, ask your teen outright if she ever thinks about hurting herself. Don’t worry that you’re “putting ideas in their heads,” advises Dr. David Miller, president of the Association of American Suicidology.

“If an adolescent is already suicidal, talking about it, your words, are not going to make them more suicidal than they already are,” Miller says. “If they are not currently suicidal, then talking about it won’t magically make them so.”

Risk Factors for Suicide

Although we sometimes think of teens as impulsive risk-takers, this trait doesn’t necessarily contribute to more teen suicide attempts, according to Miller.

“In the research I’ve seen, people who are suicidal have often thought about this a great deal,” he notes.

Risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide and mental health disorders, substance abuse, illness, feelings of isolation, and easy access to guns, medications, or other lethal means, according to the CDC.

A “trigger event” such as bullying, a bad grade, or a breakup can also prompt a vulnerable teen to attempt suicide, explains Flatt, who formed the Jason Foundation in his son’s memory. The Tennessee-based organization now has 92 affiliates across the country, serving an estimated four million people.

Know the Teen Suicide Warning Signs

Most adolescents who attempt suicide—four out of five, according to the Jason Foundation—give some type of warning, including:

  • Suicidal ideation or preoccupation with suicide, ranging from fleeting thoughts to detailed plans
  • Statements such as, “I wish I were dead,” or, “No one would miss me if I were gone”
  • Persistent feelings of depression or hopelessness
  • Behavior that is out of character, such as dramatic changes in grades, hygiene, or mood
  • Giving away prized possessions

Have a Plan to Prevent Teen Suicide

Parents know they should take their kids to the emergency room if they have appendicitis, but they often don’t know what to do if their child is depressed. Here’s what experts recommend:

1. Research mental health resources. “Don’t wait until the critical point,” Flatt warns. “If you wait until there’s actually suicidal ideation, you’ve really reached a very dangerous edge.”

2. Maintain an open dialogue with your teen.

3. If your teen seems depressed, don’t ignore it or assume it’s typical teen moodiness.

4. Store guns, prescription medications, and alcohol in safe locations.

5. Encourage your teen to seek adult help if they notice a friend exhibiting suicidal behaviors. “This is not about being a snitch. This is about helping someone and potentially saving someone’s life,” stresses Miller.

Mary Helen Berg is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times, Scary Mommy, and many other publications.

Reprinted with permission by Your Teen Magazine.

Are you struggling with a teen and have exhausted your local resources? Are you concerned that they may be at-risk and considering residential therapy? Contact us today. Since 2001 we’ve been educating parents on the teen help industry and visiting many schools and programs throughout our country.

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    Helpful Tips for Research Teen Help ProgramsMost of us never expect to land in a spot where we are searching for teen help outside our local area. It’s really hard to swallow that we have exhausted our resources, our teen is out-of-control, we’re constantly walking on eggshells or feeling like we’re hostage in our own home to their explosive and defiant behavior.

    Turning to the internet can be daunting and downright confusing! You start reading terminology you never thought about or heard of -- wilderness programs, therapeutic boarding schools, residential treatment centers and more. How do you know who is qualified and who isn’t? More importantly, how do you know what your individual child needs?

    Years ago this happened to me when I had a good teen that started making bad choices. The internet, which can be a wealth of information, can also be extremely deceptive. It’s one of the reasons why I created Parents Universal Resource Experts. To help educate parents about the big business of teen help programs.



    HELPFUL TIPS: FINDING THE RIGHT TEEN HELP PROGRAM

    When searching for a therapeutic boarding school (TBS) or residential treatment centers (RTC), keep these tips in mind:

    -Internet deception

    Be cautious of the internet: Today we turn to the internet for almost everything we do, but how do we know what is internet fact, fiction, or somewhere in between? This is why doing your due diligence, especially in this big business of teen help programs, is imperative.

    -Fear-mongering sites

    You will find some websites and forums that will criticize families for seeking outside help for their teens. They may lead you to believe that all programs and schools are bad or abusive. In reality, not all schools and programs are who they say they are– which is why are you here, doing your research.

    You are taking your time to investigate what will be best for your individual child’s needs and learning from the mistakes I made so you don’t have to. It’s exactly why I created P.U.R.E.

    If you find negative complaints about a school/program you are considering – take the time to ask us about it. We never diminish a person’s experience, however we have also realized that some people are there to make it harder for parents to get help. Again, we have walked your shoes and have taken time to dig deep into this industry.

    -Beware of the Placement Specialist

    Are you talking to a placement specialist? What exactly is this? Today these are people that are paid to place your troubled teen in a program. This is not in the best interest of your child. In some cases these are programs that have less than desirable reputations – however the placement specialist is making a commission. Typically what they are good at – is marketing. You may have just become bait and will become inundated with emails from different programs. They will be sending your name and email to many programs without qualifying your child as an appropriate fit for their school.

    If you’re a parent at your wit’s end, be sure you’re always speaking to an owner or director of a program. Someone that has a vested interest in your child’s recovery. These marketing arms aka placement specialists, can be deceptive. Read “A Parent’s True Story.”

    -Placing Abroad

    Be very cautious if sending your child out of the country. Laws are different and cannot protect your child out of the country. Many parents are misled by the lower tuition–don’t be one of them. We recommend keeping your child in the United States. If you are a resident outside of the United States, this may not affect you.

    -Behind the Screen

    Don’t allow fancy websites, emotional online videos determine your decision for your child. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. If a program is advertising a very high success rate, please ask them what third party organization did their statistical studies.

    In-house surveys are prejudiced and not always a good source of reliability. Keep in mind, this a major emotional and financial decision you will be making.

    Don’t judge a program by their website. You never know what is behind a screen. We have visited programs that have less than attractive websites with amazing facilities and staff. On the contrary – you will find polished websites with programs that wouldn’t leave your pets at.

    -Myths of Wilderness

    Your teen does not need to complete a wilderness program before they attend a residential treatment program (RTC or TBS). In many cases families today cannot afford that extra step of a wilderness program; however we hear over and over that parents are talked into breaking a child down before sending them to a therapeutic boarding program. Isn’t your teen already broken down? Isn’t that why you are reaching out for help?

    This is why you are looking for programs that will help stimulate your teen back on to a positive road– making good choices and creating a bright future that you had planned for them.

    -Finding the right program

    You are not choosing a program to “teach your child a lesson.” This is a common mistake many parents make. Many times, these are good children making bad choices. Harsh treatment and environment can enhance their anger as well as build resentment.

    -Accredited programs

    Don’t accept a program that is not accredited to educate your child, provides scant food and/or clothing, and has unsanitary living conditions. A visit to the program prior enrollment, if possible, is recommended.

    It is understandable that not every family has the finances or the time for the extra trip. With this, please be sure your research is thorough. Below – the importance of calling parent references can be helpful with this.

    As far as education, ask the program for a copy of their accreditation for their academics. With that you can contact your local school to be sure the transcripts will be transferable.

    -Basic human rights

    It is normal for parents to want their child to appreciate what they have at home; however deprivation of food, sanitation, and clothing should not be accepted. These are basic human rights.

    Many of these teens are suffering from low self-esteem, depression, peer pressure, etc. Taking away their basic needs may escalate these negative feelings.

    -Communication

    Asking the program about their communication with parents and visitation schedule is imperative. Another helpful tip – is to verify it through asking parent references when you call them.

    Don’t enroll any child in a program that refuses to allow parents to speak with their child within a reasonable amount of time, usually no longer than 30 days.

    Visitation in many programs begins at three months. This is your child, and family counseling is just as important as your child’s recovery.

    -Ask questions

    If you feel you have valid concerns and do not understand something, do not allow the program director to overlook your questions. Keep asking until you receive an appropriate response. This is your right as a parent. You are your child’s advocate.

    Ask for the staff’s education, training, and experience. Credentials of those working with your child are vital. Ask if they have background checks for all employees.

    -Age of consent

    Know what the age of majority (consent) is in the state of the program. Be sure children cannot sign themselves out of the program at their current age. You will see that many programs are located in the western part of the U.S. (especially Utah ) due to the age of majority of 18. This ensures your child cannot leave without your consent.

    -Choosing a program in the best interest of your teen

    Do not limit your decision on geographical location. The fact is this is the most important 6-9-12 months of your child’s life to date, it has to be the best placement/program/school that fits their emotional needs — not your travel plans.

    In reality, family visits are never more than every 4-6 weeks (depending on the program) after your teen has completely the initial ninety days.

    We remind parents – this is only a snapshot of their entire life – yet will have such an impact on their future. Let’s not limit it for geographical reasons.

    You won’t be making daily or weekend visits. This is about your teen’s healing, recovery and what is best for him/her. If it means you need to take an extra plane ride or few hours by car, remember — it’s only several months out of their entire life.

    Most programs are very similar in tuition fees, using credit cards as tuition can build frequent flyer miles. (If you are able to do this – with paying it off either with your funds or a loan you have received, can be a good option).

    There are many excellent programs in our country, find the one that is best fitted for your child, not your airport. The other important fact is – if you have a teen that is a flight risk, they are more likely (or tempted) to leave a program (runaway) and call one of their new less-than-desirable friends to pick them up.

    Choosing a program that is in an unfamiliar area is in the best interest of your teenager. Remember this is about your teen’s emotional wellness and recovery, not about geographically convenience.

    -Background check

    Check with the local sheriff department or the state office of the Attorney General or Department of Social Services (DSS) or Department of Children and Families – for reports of neglect or abuse as well as their current licensing.

    With this, understand that there are no perfect programs. Some may have had issues which have since been rectified or are not related to the students. However, others, with constant complaints, should be crossed off you list. Investigation is your best solution in finding a good program.

    When you contact the local sheriff department, ask them how many times a month they are called out to the program – how many runaways they have – and your final question should be, is if it were their child, would they send them there?

    With licensing, you want to be sure they are licensed as a residential treatment centers and not a daycare center or foster care home. You will be paying a significant amount of tuition, be an educated parent.

    -Consequences

    Find out what the program’s use of restraints is. If they have “isolation,” inquire about the length of time that is normally spent there and what this entails. Ask what the program does if your child runs away.

    -Fees

    Ask if the person who is marketing the information receives any kind of direct, or indirect referral fee or compensation (i.e. A month’s free tuition, gifts, certificates, dinners, etc.). P.U.R.E.™ discloses on our FAQ page that we do receive fees from some schools and programs.

    -Ask for and call parent references.

    If a school/program won’t give you parents references, it’s a red flag. It might be time to consider another program.

    Hopefully you have time to ask for at least 3-5 parent references. In some situation you can also speak with the teen that graduated the program too. This should be a call for information, guidance, and support. Did their child have the same issues as yours?

    If you are considering transport and apprehensive about it, ask the parent reference how they got their teen to the program. It’s a great way to gain more insights on residential therapy.

    Parent tip: Ask for families from your own geographical area, as well as parents that have the same gender and age as your child. You want to try to talk to parents as similar to your own situation as well as possibly near where you live. Maybe you could have an opportunity to meet with them in person. Keep in mind, first hand experiences are priceless.

    One question to ask the reference parent is if they could change one thing about the program, what would it be? Though it may not be a major concern, it may be another question you can ask the owner or director of the program.

    -Inside a program

    Look for programs that offer an ACE factor:

    A=Accredited Academics
    C=Clinical with credentialed therapists
    E=Enrichment Programs such as music, sports, animal assisted therapy, horticulture, art therapy, fine arts, drama, or whatever your teen may be passionate about. It is about stimulating your teen in a positive direction by encouraging them to build self-confidence and want to be their best.

    -Family decision

    Most Importantly, placement needs to be a family decision. Trust your gut and your heart.

    If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Keep searching. It is time to bring the family back together. If possible – do this research before you’re in crisis.

    Many parents call us with that gut feeling, than things go well for awhile and they don’t do anything. Suddenly they’re in crisis-mode and have 24-hours to select a program. Don’t be that parent.

    -Free consultation

    Parents’ Universal Resource Experts is about helping educate parents about residential therapeutic schools and programs. We offer free consultations.

    These tips are not to frighten anyone, it is to make parents aware of an industry that has little to no guidelines or regulations to follow.

    It is a fact, some of our kids need help. Let’s get them the right help with an educated and researched decision.

    Many parents contact us about the fear-mongering websites that are up. These sites are usually created by former students and they have listed just about every program in the country.

    Sadly, what they are doing is preventing families from getting the potential help they may need for their child. There is always good and bad in every field/industry — this is why it is imperative you do your due diligence when researching programs.

    We have personally visited, researched and spoken with many parents, students and former employees of programs since 2001. Feel free to contact us if you are considering a program and you find it on one of those fear-based websites.

    One of their issues is that they don’t believe in level systems. Keep in mind – in life, we all work our way up. Whether you start as a clerk and work your way to judge, or start in the mail room and work your way up to an executive. It’s part of the way life is. As long as it is not done in a degrading way.

    Are your considering Wilderness programs? Learn more about them.

    Understand there are some teen behavioral issues that require more intensive therapy. Read more.

    Be an educated parent, this is a major financial and emotional decision for your family.

    P.U.R.E.™ is part of bringing families back together…

    Click here for questions to ask schools and programs.
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