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Teen Suicide

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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Addiction and Teens: How Suicide Comes Into the Picture

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 06, 2016  /   Posted in Mental Health, Mental Illness, Parenting Teens, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

PixabayTeenThe teen years are difficult for many, although some young people are better equipped to handle stressful situations and therefore seem to have an easier time. For the most part, teens don’t have the emotional maturity to cope with some of the issues they face today, which can lead to substance abuse as they attempt to find a way through the situation.

Many parents fear that drug and alcohol abuse will lead to death by overdose, but there is also a risk for death by suicide when substances come into the picture, especially if there was already a mood or mental disorder present that is exacerbated by drugs or alcohol. With emotions already running high for young people, adding a substance into the mix can only makes things worse and, frighteningly, causes impulsive behavior that may make self-harm easier. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people aged 15-34.

For this reason, the risk for suicide is heightened when a teen has access to a weapon, which is why all families who own guns are strongly urged to keep them locked up or secured in a hidden place, preferably with a lock on the trigger and the bullets in a separate area.

Teens–especially those who suffer from an undiagnosed condition such as bipolar disorder–may begin to feel as if there is no way out when they experience a difficult life event. These feelings are dangerous, especially if there has been substance abuse present that could make the individual impulsive. Drugs and alcohol can lead to depression, isolation, a decline in physical health, and can affect sleeping habits, which could lead back around to substance abuse as the individual tries to get rest.

The reasons a teen may turn to drugs or alcohol are myriad. It can stem from an unhappy home life, a recent big life change such as divorce or a death in the family, chronic illness, or it could be something unseen by friends and family, such as a struggle with sexuality or cyber-bullying.

In order for parents to help, it’s always a good idea to know who their child is spending time with and what they do in their free time. This can be useful when it comes time for the teen to open up about any issues they may be having.

Some of the warning signs of addiction in teens include:

  • Loss of interest in things that once brought joy
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Decline in physical health or appearance
  • Slurred or impaired speech
  • Detached emotions or being overly emotional
  • Being secretive
  • Lashing out
  • Getting into legal trouble

If you have a loved one who is exhibiting these behaviors, it’s important to open up a conversation with them and let them know you’re listening. Don’t be judgmental or introduce guilt; chances are, they already feel guilty about something, or perhaps they are suffering from low self-esteem. Let them know you’re there for them and encourage them to seek help in the form of counseling, or to make an appointment with a doctor. It’s a good idea to talk one-on-one, as too many people in a room can make the individual feel like they are being ganged up on.

If you feel that self-harm is imminent, don’t leave the individual alone. Remove any items that could be used for harm from the area and call for help. Remember that you won’t have all the answers, and you may not be able to reach your loved one the way they need to be reached. There are professionals waiting to help when this is the case.

National Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

Contributor:  Michelle Peterson has been in recovery for several years. She started RecoveryPride.org to help eliminate the stigma placed on those who struggle with addiction. The site emphasizes that the journey to sobriety should not be one of shame but of pride and offers stories, victories, and other information to give hope and help to those in recovery.

 

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Is Self-Harming Mental Illness?

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 09, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Self-injury is a trend we are hearing more and more about. Teens and younger are engaging in self-harming and it’s very alarming for parents, as it should be.

What is causing this dangerous and risky behavior? Is it peer pressure? Is it stress related? What is so emotionally painful that your child is burying it by the physical pain of cutting?

Is self-harming a form of mental illness?

It’s important to understand that a teen who is a self-injurer is not mentally ill. Self-injury is not merely a way to get attention. Even though the self-injurer may not feel the pain while inflicting the wound, he or she will feel pain afterward.

SelfHarmThis is not to say it’s not imperative you get your child help.

Thus, such injuries should not be brushed aside as mere manipulation, nor should the teen be made fun of for being different. Self-injury should be taken seriously by friends and family. Trust and compassion can make a world of difference.

Cutting verses suicide is another issue parents are concerned about.

People who self-injure to get rid of bad feelings are not necessarily suicidal. Self-injury is almost the opposite. Instead of wanting to end their lives, those who inflict physical harm to themselves are desperate to find a way to get through the day without feeling horrible.

Again, this doesn’t mean you dismiss this as not an important problem, these are big issues.

Though the two concepts are different, self-injury should not be brushed aside as a small problem. The very nature of self-injury is physical damage to one’s body. It’s important for the self-injurer to seek help at once.

Can you stop your child from self-harming?

A person may not be able to stop injuring themselves “cold turkey.” But seeing a counselor or joining a support group will likely help to ease the frequency and severity of self-injury. Intense negative feelings may cause a person to feel isolated from the rest of the world, so a social support system is important to fight self-injury.

There are effective treatment strategies for those who self-injure. The forms and causes of self-injury are unique to each individual. A psychologist or counselor will be able to tailor a treatment strategy to each person.

If you have exhausted your local resources and local therapy, support groups as well as outpatient treatment is not working – please contact us for information on residential therapy.

Source:  WebMD.com

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Teen Suicide: Dispelling the Myths

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 08, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help, Troubled Teens

Myths of Teen Suicide

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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Teen Suicide Prevention and Awareness

Posted by Sue Scheff on September 05, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Residential Therapy, Struggling Teen Help

TeenSuicideKidsInHouseA parent’s worst nightmare is surviving a child’s suicide.

It’s not natural to outlive your child, especially to suicide.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month however this topic is one that needs attention 365 days a year.

Kids In The House offers a library of videos by experts to help educate parents on teen suicide prevention.  Today’s generation of online peer pressure in combination with offline only complicates our teen’s stress and anxiety. The world of cyberspace has created a new level of concern for many parents – and they must continue to be in touch with their teen’s emotional lives both offline and online.  It’s why your offline chats are so important – frequently.

American Foundation for Suicide offers the following warning signs for parents of teens and youth:

  1. Take it seriously, even if your friend brushes it off
    1. Suicidal ideation (continual suicidal thoughts) is not typical and reflects a larger problem
  2. An angry friend is better than a dead friend
  3. Ask, listen, tell, if the threat is immediate stay with the person
  4. Bring friend to a trusted adult. If they don’t know what to do or don’t take it seriously find another adult
  5. Be a good listener but remember suicidal ideation reflects a bigger underlying problem such as depression, substance problems, abuse, problem-solving difficulties. You can listen but they need to speak to a professional.
  6. 30% of attempters tell someone before, many don’t tell anyone after.
    1. When some talks to you, that is the moment for intervention
    2. With each suicide attempt, risk of suicide increases
  7. Warning Signs
    1. Change in mood- sadness, anxiety, irritability
    2. change in behavior- isolation
    3. Change in sleep
    4. Change in appetite
    5. Increase in aggression or impulsiveness
    6. Agitation
    7. Feeling hopeless, worthless
    8. Saying things like “No one will miss me” or “You’ll be better off” (feeling like a burden)
    9. Feeling ashamed or humiliated or desperation, as after a break up or test
    10. Collecting means
    11. Talking about wanting to kill themselves
    12. Drop in grades
    13. Risk taking
    14. Giving away prized possessions

Be an educated parent, you will have safer and healthier teens.


For more information on teens visit KidsInTheHouse.com

If you believe your teen is struggling or suffering with any of the above and have exhausted all your local resources, you may want to consider residential therapy. Contact us for more information.

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Teen Suicide: 10 Myths Parents Should Know

Posted by Sue Scheff on July 25, 2015  /   Posted in Parenting Teens, Struggling Teen Help, Teen Help

TeenSuicideSuicide is probably one of the most difficult topics to talk about.  When anyone takes their own life, whether it is a child, teenager or an adult, there are so many questions and so many what ifs.

It’s not easy being a parent today, but it’s also not easy being a teen with peer pressure not only in school but compounded with technology.  A person can be silently suffering from keystrokes that have gone viral not only through their school, but through their entire community and world wide web.  It can be literally devastating to youth (as it can be to almost anyone at any age).

Death by humiliation as we heard in a recent TED Talk.  It can be very real.

Suicide remains a serious epidemic that transcends socioeconomic, age, racial, religious, mental health, and gender/sexual identity boundaries. While studies do show that some groups stand at a higher risk of suicide than others – usually those already prone to social marginalization – the sad reality is that this mindset holds the potential to strike anyone, anywhere, at any point in life. Due to the mixed messages flailing about regarding the condition, it becomes progressively more difficult to objectively discuss the delineation between fact and fiction. So many misconceptions abound that the suicidal truly needing an intervention in order to survive may very well not receive the help they need to recover.

As with all issues regarding mental health, suicide especially has become the target of wrongful stigmatization. Because so many view it as a taboo or scary subject, the tragic desperation of suicide becomes pushed aside, wrongfully dismissed as histrionics or other self-serving actions. For those not working in the psychological field, explicit education in the complexities and psychological phenomena that lead individuals down the dangerous path towards suicide makes for the absolute best solution to preventing further tragedy. To learn about how it operates is to understand; to understand is to learn how to properly stop someone from succumbing to a cycle of absolute pain. Treatment is never an easy process, but it stands as the only reliable safeguard against suicide available. Individuals making the effort to personally empathize with this sad plight comprise the front lines of prevention – their compassionate efforts are what save lives and guide others to emulate their actions.

10 Common Myths About Suicide:

Cutting1. Suicide is just a ploy for attention. Ignoring the threats means they go away.
One of the most cruel myths regarding suicide involves perceptions that victims are using their emotions as leverage – a tool for manipulation. By acknowledging their comments, family and friends only stoke their desire for attention and validation. Not only is this misconception highly inaccurate, it also results in a higher risk of suicide attempts and fatalities. All suicide threats must go addressed, and all potential victims must not be treated as if self-serving and attention-starved. Ignoring comments and threats that so much as hint towards suicide makes for one of the most dangerous reactions on the part of family and friends. It sends a message of apathy, of not taking the victim’s pain seriously enough to discuss objectively.This only serves to further their sense of desperation; in some ways it actively encourages them to go through with plans to die.

2. All suicidal people suffer from some kind of character weakness or psychosis.

At the core of every suicide, completed or thwarted, there lay a sense of overwhelming. While studies do in fact show a correlation between depression, addiction, and other common mental illnesses and suicide, not every victim suffers from one or a combination of these conditions. Psychotic patients only comprise a fraction of suicides, but not the majority. Truthfully, all persons of any age, mental state, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic bracket hold within them the capacity to kill themselves. It remains only a matter of how far they become pushed to their limits, how desperate the sense of mental, emotional, and/or physical pain eventually swells. Suicide is not a weakness. Victims frequently see it as their only escape route from overwhelming torment – a way to finally end their all-encompassing agony once and for all.

Society labels suicides as inherently psychotic or weak as a means of demonizing their behavior. In some warped way, these myths are perceived as a deterrent for those contemplating killing themselves – after all, who wants to go down perceived not as a hero, but as weak or crazy? Wrongfully classifying genuine suffering as a sign of frailty or psychosis acts as a projection of society onto the victim. The only true weakness here lay in peoples’ inability or unwillingness to address the true gravity of suicide and constant spread of outright lies about the condition. Strength only factors in when an individual is willing to admit that they, too, have a threshold whereby they may become so desperate as to consider suicide a viable option. By acknowledging this one tragic but universal kernel of humanity, they may go on to help preserve the lives of others who may find themselves struggling with the urge to escape pain through death.

TeenSuicide23. Those who survive suicide attempts won’t try it again.

Suicide is not a plea for attention. It expresses an extreme desire to slough off overwhelming stress and anxiety, and the National Institute of Mental Health estimates that for every death by suicide, another 12-25 survive their attempts. Many believe that living through a potentially fatal self-injury automatically inspires victims to seize life and never try to hurt themselves again. Reality says otherwise. Survivors run a very high risk of repeating their actions later on in life, and professionals agree that one of the highest indicators of a potential fatality is a record of prior attempts. Those who live through suicidal acts must seek psychological assistance immediately upon recovery. Cognitive therapy has been shown to reduce further suicide attempts by 50% within a year following the initial incident. Instead of perceiving survival as a wake-up call for the fleeting preciousness of life, family and friends of the victim need to think of it as an indicator of future risk and respond accordingly The only responsible reaction encourages therapy as the most viable solution to prevent further incidents.

4. Talking to someone who is suicidal about suicide just makes the urge even worse.

When a friend or family member begins opening up and admitting suicidal thoughts, ignoring their comments or changing the subject actually pushes them further towards going through with these actions. Talking about suicide with a loved one openly and objectively serves as a safeguard until the victim receives professional help. If confronted with a potentially suicidal situation, the best reaction is to call an emergency number (such as 911 in the United States or 999 in some countries in Europe and Asia or a suicide hotline so the individual connects with people trained to handle their situation. Never leave the victim unattended, and be sure to clear the room of any firearms or other potentially deadly devices. By acknowledging their status as suicidal, friends and family may actually stave off fatal behavior. Victims want help, they want someone to intervene and assist them in combating the swarming demons of overwhelming desperation they face daily. Talking to them may not always reduce the urge, but it never actively encourages them to follow through with suicide, either. A proper reaction that proactively guides victims into valuable therapy shows the compassion, love, and care that they need to try and make themselves healthier. Only ignoring or making little effort to understand the issue stimulates the urge to commit suicide.

5. Suicide occurs without warning; there are no ways to prevent it.

Individuals with the following traits run a higher risk of committing suicide: depression or anxiety disorders, substance abuse, prior attempts, victim of sexual or physical abuse, family or friend of a suicide victim, incarceration, gun ownership, and social marginalization. Obviously, potential suicides do not always carry one or more of these traits, nor do they inherently indicate suicidal behavior. However, educating oneself on what sort of factors to look out for and who suffers the biggest risk makes for the best method of prevention possible. Putting forth the effort to understand and look out for the warning signs may mean the difference between life and death.

If a friend of family member begins displaying some early signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior, their loved ones are partially responsible for intervening and preventing attempts. Social withdrawal, a preoccupation with death, the intensification of depressive behavior, apathy, engaging in risky behaviors, attempting to tie up loose ends, and – in extreme cases – writing up a will, saying goodbye to people, and outright discussing wanting to die all stand out as signifiers of a potential suicide.

Also look out for a major shift from extreme depression to an overall sense of calm. This indicates that the victim may have found peace and comfort in a decision to kill him- or herself and needs to be dealt with before following through with it. While variables always inevitably creep in, the aforementioned red flags generally point towards disconcerting behavior that must be addressed before it becomes too late.

6. Suicidal people just want to die, and it’s impossible to talk them down.

The decision to commit suicide is not static. If an individual begins opening up about desiring death, it is possible for them to step down from their choice. While the understanding and support from family and friends remains the first line of defense, therapy remains the only viable long-term solution to prevent suicide. Even if a victim gives up on his or her decision to die due to the assistance of a loved one with all the right ideas and preparations, regular sessions with a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist reduces the risk of suicide by half after one year – something that love and compassion from friends and family alone cannot achieve. If an individual suffers from an immediate risk of suicide, then dialing an emergency number will provide access to professionals far better equipped to handle the direness of the situation. Never, under any circumstances, leave them unattended for any period of time until help arrives.

7. An improvement in emotional state means the risk of suicide is lowered.

Frequently, the opposite of this statement is the truism. One of the biggest warning signs that an individual may follow through with plans to commit suicide is a rapid shift between despair and overarching calm, even happiness. Even if the victim currently attends therapy sessions, rarely do moods alter so dramatically from negative to positive. Signs of peace after a severe and prolonged bout of hopelessness or depression may signal the decision to commit suicide as a permanent solution to overwhelming problems. Be sure to keep a sharp eye out for the other indicators mentioned earlier if the victim’s mood rapidly improves without provocation.

SadTeen8. Unsuccessful suicide attempts means the victim never cared to die in the first place.

Individuals survive suicide attempts for any number of reasons. Happenstance or the timely intervention of a loved one usually accounts for a victim not fully succumbing to death. Depending on the method, victims may even end up critically injured or in a coma. A number of different factors make up the difference between a fatality and a survival, but just because an individual lives through a suicide attempt does not mean they were never serious about dying in the first place. Actually, the fact that they even tried to commit suicide in the first place ought to explicitly tip off friends and family that the victim honestly wants to end his or her life. In fact, suicide survivors run a higher risk of future attempts, so it is integral that they seek professional help immediately in order to prevent further incidents.

9. Telling the suicidal to cheer up will help.

Much like clinical depression – a mental illness which comprises almost 90% of suicide cases each year – victims do not turn around simply by being told to cheer up and remain positive. A considerable amount of overwhelming mental, emotional, and/or physical pain factors into suicidal thoughts and actions, and while support and compassion can certainly help bring a victim back down from the brink it is unfortunately not enough to solve all of the underlining issues. Only professional therapy through a counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist can really dissect a patients’ problems and help nurture the mindsets and skills necessary for practicing healthy coping mechanisms in the long run. It is not a matter of merely cheering up. It is a matter of confronting the torment that leads them to perceive death as the only viable option to escape the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune.

10. Suicidal thoughts need to be kept secret so as not to embarrass or upset anyone.

Because suicide comes yoked with so many misunderstandings labeling the victims as weak, psychotic, or desperate for attention, it has sadly become a shameful, demonized subject too taboo to discuss objectively. Those feeling the tug of wanting to die are led to believe that they must simply choke back and fight the urge. They fear broaching such a hefty, weighty subject with loved ones because of how society unfairly paints their plight, believing that honesty may result in ostracizing of further marginalization. Truthfully, any time suicidal thoughts crop up they must be expressed to someone trustworthy – a family member, a friend, a hotline number, or a therapist. No matter what, there is always somebody out there willing to offer an ear and advice on finding a professional who will help quell the suffering in the long term. While friends and family will never react positively to news of suicidal thoughts, they would much rather address the issue as it arises instead of bury a loved one. Never be ashamed to the point of suppressing suicidal feelings. Openness and honesty between the victim and trusted peers means the difference between life and death.

Only by making an effort to truly understand the realities behind suicide can humanity honestly hope to prevent it. The previous ten myths only sadly skim the surface of an overarching social issue. Far too many frown more upon the persons feeling suicidal rather than the act itself, further pushing them towards a desperate act. Fortunately, concerned friends, family, and mental health professionals with the right intentions and ideas towards approaching the subject have a number of extremely valuable resources at their disposal.

NSPL_LogoNeed immediate help?  Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. No matter what problems you are dealing with, we want to help you find a reason to keep living. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

If your teen is struggling with depression or thoughts of ending their life, please seek immediate help.  After exhausting local help, and you don’t see any results, you may want to consider residential therapy.  Contact us for more information.

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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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