Categories
Suicide

Is Your Teen Exhibiting Suicidal Tendencies?

While suicidal tendencies, thoughts and actual suicides have unfortunately become more common across the board, they have grown especially rapidly among teens. There is no single factor to blame here, as a myriad of issues contribute: rising rates of depression and anxiety, dire economic difficulties (especially in rural areas), rising rates of violence against LGBTQ teens, COVID, and the opioid crisis are some examples.

But rather than view rising suicides simply within the lens of public health, it’s important to recognize that the most effective way for parents and families to tackle the problem is at home. Family support, greater access to mental health resources, and a more compassionate and understanding stance on the issues surrounding suicide can sometimes make a crucial difference.

Recognizing early on when a teen is contemplating suicide is an important step towards helping them. Understanding suicidal tendencies and why some people feel the urge to commit suicide can help us find better ways to address these thoughts in our loved ones without alienating them.

What Are Suicidal Tendencies?

For every completed suicide, there are about 25 suicide attempts where a person survives. Yet surviving once doesn’t somehow diminish the chance of it happening again – instead, someone who attempted suicide is more likely to try again in the future. Suicidal tendencies refer to suicidal ideation (thoughts) and suicidal behavior (actions), and they can be understood to describe a teen’s likelihood of considering suicide as an option for their pain.

While one should be careful not to normalize suicide, it is important to understand the scope of how it affects those around us – as many as 17 percent of grade 9-12 students seriously contemplated suicide in 2013, while only 2.7 percent made a suicide attempt that required medical attention. Chances are that someone close to you might have, at some low point in their lives, considered the idea. It’s important to empathize with someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts, even without first-hand experience.

Many who do contemplate suicide are ashamed to bring it up, and often feel they are a burden to others, or don’t want to be labeled unstable or “crazy”. While most people might not personally identify with the urge to commit suicide, there is a natural logic to it for those who do – a point when the despair and pain reaches a level where non-existence is the only alternative. When a loved one opens up about having suicidal thoughts, try to understand what they must be feeling that would drive them to such a point – and how you can best respond to help them feel heard and seen.

That point, thankfully, is often fleeting. A teen with suicidal tendencies may have or continues to consider suicide, but they aren’t looking for ways to commit suicide at all times. Instead, there are short moments when they are gripped with overwhelming pressure and sadness – and it’s in those moments that they need access to consistent help and support to keep themselves from the point of no return. Protective factors and therapy can help make those moments rarer, to the point that they provide the framework for treating someone with suicidal ideation and other symptoms of depression.

Critical Risk Factors and Warning Signs

Recognizing suicidal thoughts in a teen is sometimes as simple as listening to them when they talk on subjects of death and self-harm, or as complex as watching for subtle changes in their behaviors and actions that might hint at overwhelming stress and sadness. Some important signs include:

    • Frequently discussing suicide and death
    • Talking about being useless or a burden
    • Low self-esteem and withdrawal from others
    • Disinterest in old hobbies and friends
    • Sudden shift in mood and activities
    • Increased or recent substance use
    • Signs of aggression or high irritability
    • Uncharacteristic risk-taking behavior
    • Saying goodbyes and leaving cryptic messages
    • Buying a firearm

Some of the risk factors contributing to suicidal thoughts include:

    • Increased substance use, including alcohol
    • A family history of suicides
    • Depression and depressive disorders
    • Gun ownership/easy access to firearms
    • Chronic pain, or another serious chronic illness
    • Gender (men are four times more likely to complete suicide, while women attempt suicide more often than men)
    • Trauma or abuse
    • Continued stress
    • Recent loss of a loved one

Teens can talk about suicide and be sad without being suicidal or depressed, and they’re known for shifts in mood and temper – but when your gut feeling is that some of the more recent changes in your teen are certainly taking a turn for the dark, it’s not a bad idea to bring it up. Bringing up the topic of suicide does not make someone more likely to commit suicide and may actually give them the opportunity to open up and talk to you about feelings they felt should stay hidden, potentially festering unaddressed.

By approaching the topic first, you take away the anxiety that they may have that somehow talking about suicide or suicidal ideation would lead to an unhelpful conversation about just cheering up, or being scolded for thoughts/actions of self-harm. If you’re worried, concerned, or suspicious, just talk to your teen. Talk to their friends, as well. Make sure they understand that you’re concerned and want to be there for them – and that they shouldn’t be afraid to approach you on the topic of mental health and emotion.

Is It Always Depression?

While teens with depressive disorders are more likely than the general population to commit suicide, less than half of all suicides involve people who were diagnosed with a depressive disorder, or any mental illness. While they may have gone undiagnosed, it’s also possible to struggle with thoughts of suicide and experience suicidal tendencies without a co-occurring mental health condition. Sometimes, the circumstances we find ourselves in are so overwhelming that suicide becomes a reasonable option to the mind, if only for a moment.

Suicides remain most common among middle-aged men, with rates rising more quickly in rural areas than anywhere else in the country. While lack of mental health services may be a contributing factor, economic despair and years of stress can compound and lead to suicidal thoughts as well. Opportunity is another important factor – if it’s easier to commit suicide, it’s also more likely to happen. While mental health and access to treatment are important factors in preventing suicides, they aren’t always a primary factor.

Importance of Seeking Help and Offering Support

If you think your loved one is going through a hard time or has recently been contemplating suicide, the most important thing is to make sure they know you’re there for them. You don’t have to be a qualified therapist or a mental health specialist to help support a loved one, and oftentimes just being there to listen with compassion can save lives.

Professional help is still important, especially in cases where suicidal ideation is matched with other symptoms of potential depression, or another mental health issue. But don’t underestimate your value and role as a loved one’s friend, parent, or relative. Both help and support are necessary.

Categories
Suicide

Talking to Your Teen About Suicide Prevention

Suicide remains the second most common cause of death for children, teens, and young adults, and it’s clearly alarming to hear a loved one talk about killing themselves. Many of us have lived our entire lives without seriously considering the idea of suicide, but for hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults, it’s a thought that crosses their mind more than once.

Different risk factors, mental health issues, and experiences can influence the decision to try and take one’s life, and it’s important to acknowledge and talk about these feelings in order to address them before they lead to action. It’s especially important to address the topic of suicide given today’s mental health climate.

COVID-19 has seen a spike in virus-related deaths, but also deaths of despair as a result of isolation, economic desolation, and general anxiety. For every completed suicide among teens, there are about 25 suicide attempts. While the risks and symptoms are not always obvious, there are often opportunities to recognize a teen’s troubling thoughts and help them find a better alternative to their pains and worries.

Why Teen Suicide Occurs

Teenagers and middle-aged adults are more likely to take their own life than children or the elderly. For children with traumatic and difficult beginnings, the teen years are often the years when the effects of those traumas manifest most strongly. Puberty is often also the onset for more severe symptoms of depression or general anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.

Many teens who contemplate suicide feel that they aren’t just in pain, but that they generally have nothing to look forward to. Even if moments and memories of joy serve to undermine that feeling in most people, a condition such as depression is so overwhelming in its hijacking of the mind that these memories have no chance of arguing against suicide.

Most people who have contemplated suicide and then survived the attempt feel gratitude immediately afterward, but in those few moments preceding their attempt, the mind is incapable of wrestling with anything except negative thoughts and self-denigration. Once the moment passes, however, a teen may be able to think themselves back into a neutral or happier state of mind.

Oftentimes, successful suicide prevention is about helping a teen find their way back towards that healthier state of mind by fighting back against their inner self-deprecation, and helping them find reasons to live just long enough for the passing urge to go away.

Suicide Risk Factors

The factors behind suicide are complex and vary greatly from teen to teen. While it’s impossible to detail every potential cause and factor, some of the most significant risk factors for teen suicide are:

    • Socioeconomic factors (race, class, income)
    • Physical health (chronic conditions may accelerate feelings of despair)
    • Signs of depression and/or anxiety
    • Psychosis
    • Childhood or recent trauma
    • Recurring stress and/or victimization (bullying)
    • Regular or excessive substance use
    • Reckless or uncharacteristic behavior
    • Family history of suicide and/or depression
    • Previous suicide attempts

Some important warning signs to watch out for include:

    • Signs of self-harm or cutting
    • Frequently discussing death, being preoccupied with death and ways to die
    • Often feeling hopeless or worthless, or useless
    • Social withdrawal
    • Problems at school, inattentiveness
    • Sudden weight loss or gain

Teens who consider suicide aren’t weak or cowardly. Instead, they are often beset with factors or conditions that make it much harder to withstand the pressures and circumstances they face, leaving them with an overwhelmingly bleak outlook that purposefully ignores all the positives in their life, and amplifies the dark.

Without a first-hand experience of depression and depressive thinking, it doesn’t serve to compare yourself or your outlook with a suicidal teen when discussing something like suicide or depression. Instead, offer support and help. Support and help are critical in suicide prevention.

How to Approach the Subject of Suicide

Don’t be afraid to address the subject to begin with. You may be worried about discussing suicide with a loved one out of fear that mentioning it will somehow make matters worse. But it’s doing the opposite – ignoring it – that can lead to the idea festering and growing unchecked. Simply providing a loved one with the opportunity to openly talk about how they feel and what they want to do can make a big difference right away.

Don’t make it about yourself or dismiss their concerns. Try to focus on listening and giving them questions to answer and making sure they know you want to understand why they feel the way they do. Sentences like “I had a tough time, but I got over it” or “why would you feel this way when you’ve got it so good in life?” only serve to shut down conversation and teach your teen that they can’t talk to you about how they really feel.

Don’t lose touch. If you feel that a loved one is at risk for harming themselves, one of the best things to do is try and be at their side as much as possible. Invite them to do more things with you. Spend extra time with them after school. Plan a trip. Do something mundane together like cook or grabbing groceries. Don’t let them feel isolated or alone.

Talk in earnest but prioritize compassion. If you haven’t tackled similar thoughts and experiences in the past, chances are you may not completely understand the way your teen feels, and that is alright. You can still be honest when discussing suicide with them, but always try to remember how they feel, and keep their feelings at the forefront of the discussion. Be compassionate, and make sure they understand that as a friend, relative, or parent, you love them first and foremost, and want to help them.

Other Resources

Ideally, you should consider speaking with your teen about visiting a mental health professional specializing in adolescents. If there is a chance that your teen’s thoughts are tied to a mood disorder or some other mental health condition, then an early diagnosis and treatment plan can provide a great deal of help.

Make sure your teen understands that you aren’t trying to medicate them or shut them up, but to help them better deal with irrationally dark thoughts and negative feelings and help them find balance. Some other helpful resources include:

Categories
Self-Harm Suicide

Teens and Self-Injury

Self-harm is a concept that can be frightening and confusing to parents. Why would a youngster use self-injury to actually make themselves feel better? The truth is that self-harm can be a form of self-medicating against some types of mental illness or the stresses and strains of daily life. Like drugs and alcohol, the behavior can even become addictive for some kids, making it nearly impossible for them to stop the destruction. Parents can help their children by learning what self-injury is, why it typically occurs and what can be done to break the pattern and heal their kids.

Types of Self-Injury

There are many ways teens can inflict harm on themselves:

  • Scratching or picking at the skin to cause an injury
  • Cutting the skin with a sharp object like a razor blade
  • Biting or burning the skin
  • Pulling out hair
  • Hitting themselves or banging their heads against a wall
  • Piercing the skin with sharp objects
  • Swallowing dangerous objects or substances

Some teens may try self-harm a few times and then stop because it doesn’t bring them the relief they are hoping for. Others can get into a routine of self-injury that becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to stop on their own.

Signs of Self-Injury

As a parent, you never want to think your child is injuring himself without your knowledge, just like you probably wouldn’t want to face the reality of drug or alcohol abuse. However, ignoring the situation won’t make it go away, and will likely allow things to get worse. If you suspect your child might be self-harming, there are a few telltale signs to watch out for:

  • Your child wants to wear long sleeves, even in the heat of summer
  • Your child seems to have numerous, unexplained wounds or injuries
  • Tools like broken glass or razors are found in the trash or in your child’s room
  • You see increased isolation in your child as they avoid friends and social situations
  • Your child begins to spend more time alone, locked in their room or bathroom
  • Other symptoms are present, such as irritability, poor self-esteem or impulsivity

In most cases, the injuries will be found on the arms, legs or stomach because these are areas your teen can easily reach and cover up afterward. Your teen may also be visiting websites that talk about self-harm, another red flag for parents to seek help for their kids.

Reasons for Self-Injury

There are plenty of misconceptions about why teens self-harm. It is important to set the facts straight so you understand the possible reasons behind your child’s behavior. Most teens that injure themselves are not looking for attention, which is why they spend so much time and energy covering up the evidence. They are also not usually suicidal – in fact, they are looking for a way to survive rather than give up.

Teens that harm themselves intentionally often do so to escape intense feelings of sadness, loneliness or anxiety. The injury makes them feel something besides the dark emotions inside, which gives them a break from feeling so bad. They can even begin to crave the release self-injury offers, which is why this behavior can become addictive over time.

Treatment Options that Work

Treatment for self-injury generally requires a multi-faceted approach that includes individual and family therapy. In addition, many teens that self-injure also abuse substances, so they will require treatment for both disorders in order to see the best results. Treatment may take some time as your teen learns to replace harmful behaviors with healthy methods of dealing with negative feelings and emotions.

The staff at Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers works with teens struggling with self-harm as well as drug and alcohol abuse. To learn more about this disorder or get help for your teen, contact Visions today at 866-889-3665.

Categories
Addiction Depression Mental Health Self-Harm Suicide

What Parents Need to Know About Cutting

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

What does Cutting Look Like?
Cutting can be done with any sharp object found around the house; razors, thumbtacks, scissors or even the edge of a soda can pop top. The cuts usually occur on the arms, but some teens also cut on the thighs or abdomen. Most cuts are straight lines, although some teens might also cut words into skin to reflect their deep feelings leading to their self-injury.

Common symptoms of cutting might include:

• Fresh cuts or scratches
• Scars along the arms or other areas
• Sharp objects in the trash or hidden in the teen’s bedroom
• Wearing long sleeves even on hot days
• Spending longer periods of time alone
• Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
• Other disorders, such as an eating disorder or substance abuse
• Extreme mood shifts or out-of-control behavior

Hiding the Pain

Kids that cut may find some type of emotional relief from the behavior, but they also know it is not “right” or “normal” to others. They will make every effort to hide their cutting, wearing clothing that covers up the injuries and scars or lying about how the injuries occurred. Parents often feel

Cutting is a form of self-injury or SI. Contrary to how it might seem to someone on the outside looking in, cutting is not a way to get attention. It is not a suicide attempt. Cutting is a sign that the person is in deep emotional pain and that pain must be addressed before the self-injuring behavior can stop. If you suspect your child is self-injuring, there are some basic facts about this behavior that you need to know.

The Pain Principle
If cutting is not done to get attention, why do kids do it? In most cases, kids begin cutting because they are experiencing deep emotional pain – from an event like a death, previous abuse or intense stress or anxiety. The cutting actually relieves the emotional pain, almost like drugs or alcohol numb the senses.

Teens that cut are not looking to end their lives from this behavior. However, there are cases where the cutting goes deeper than the person intended, requiring stitches or even hospitalization. Kids that cut are also suffering deep emotional issues that could lead to suicidal thoughts and ideations in the future if the issues are not addressed.

Cutting is a serious problem that can become almost addictive over time. The behavior is often associated with food addictions or substance use disorders. If your teen is cutting, help is available. Contact Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers today at 866-889-3665 to learn more about cutting or get the help your child needs.

Categories
Mental Health Prevention Recovery Service Suicide Teen Activism

Visions Walks for Suicide Prevention: Staff Stories

On September 28, Didi Hirsch hosted their 16th annual Alive Walk 5k Walk/Run for Suicide Prevention. Visions had a team this year, and several staff and alumni walked in honor of suicide prevention and to raise awareness and erase the stigma of suicide. Many of us have had the misfortune of losing someone to suicide, and finding a way to honor the lives of those lost while raising awareness to prevent a similar loss is a big deal. It can be profoundly healing to be amidst those who have had similar experiences. Dr. Noelle Rodriguez, Jenny Werber, and Nick Riefner were among the staff that were there. I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Noelle Rodriguez and Jenny Werber, and they were gracious enough to share their experiences with us:

Noelle:

“I’m so glad I participated in this 5k. I am recently grieving the loss of my dear friend who was 38, married, a father and a firefighter. He, like so many others, did not ask for help nor did he show obvious signs he was in despair.

Being a part of this while I am grieving was powerful, moving and profound. Many of the participants had a sign that read “In Memory Of” pinned to their shirts with the names of their loved ones–so many young lives gone, and gone way too soon.  We were together in solidarity. We were sharing our sadness but in no way loving the person less for how they departed. We were simply showing others there may be hope for them.

I was struck by a team that wore matching shirts that read H.O.P.E., which stood for Hold on Pain Ends. I thought about so many who have given up maybe much to soon before they realized there was a solution. We are all affected by suicide, a topic no one talks about and when they do it’s treated like the plague. I felt a sense of compassion and acceptance like I never have before. I am not angry for the loss of my friend; just sad he would not reach out for help.

While we may never stop people from committing suicide, talking about it will hopefully help someone else who may be thinking it’s their only option.

I love Marcello, I always will.”

Jenny:

“It was personal to me, as my cousin Matt committed suicide 12 years ago at the age of 26.  My Aunt and cousin (my late cousin’s mom and brother) walk each year in honor of Matt and in support of suicide prevention.  I did not know they participated in this event until this year, and a team was formed in memory of Matt, where family and friends surprised my Aunt and cousin at the race’s starting line the morning of the race.  It was a pleasure and honor to walk with them to honor Matt and support them.

I created a team for Visions staff and clients to join and participate to honor those they may have lost.  Being there with my family and also with my Visions family was extremely touching.  While you wish there was never a reason for any of us to be at such an event, I believe it is the hope for all of us there that our contributions aid to awareness and prevention for someone else and their family.”

 

This event was a wonderful way to close out Suicide Awareness Month. However, this doesn’t mean we stop talking about suicide prevention and awareness. We can always raise awareness about suicide prevention and make concerted efforts to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.

Categories
Mental Health Suicide

Suicide is Preventable When You Know the Signs

Suicide is a major, yet preventable mental health problem. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “In 2007, suicide was the thirst leading cause of death for young people ages 15-24. Suicide accounted for 4140 deaths (12%) of the total 34,598 suicide deaths in 2007. ”

  • Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-old Americans. (CDC)
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide. (CDC, AAS)
  • There are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (CDC, AAS)

Though these numbers seem daunting, they are not a complete reflection on the youth of today or the way they manage or respond to stress or difficulty. These numbers do, however, indicate a significant problem that we need to be aware of so that we can act accordingly to prevent it.

 

Suicidal behavior is never a normal response to stress.

 

Some of the risk factors for suicide include:

  • Depression or other mental disorders
  • Substance abuse (often in combination with mental illness)
  • Family history of suicide
  • Prior suicide attempt
  • History of physical or sexual abuse within the family system
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others

Other things to watch for in yourself or your loved ones include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, depressed mood, excessive guilt, low self-esteem
  • A loss of interest in family or social activities
  • Changes in eating and sleeping patterns (too much or too little)
  • Persistent anger, rage, need for revenge
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Problems at school: socially and academically
  • Feeling listless or irritable
  • Regular or frequent crying
  • Not taking care of yourself (not bathing regularly, etc)
  • Reckless and/or impulsive behaviors
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches

Warning signs that someone may be thinking of committing suicide:

  • Always talking about or thinking about death
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Clinical depression — deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating — that seems to get worse
  • Loss of interest in things you or your loved one once cared about
  • Comments about being worthless, hopeless, helpless
  • Putting affairs in order, like changing or creating a will all of a sudden, or seeming to “tie up lose ends”
  • Comments like, “It would be better if I wasn’t here,” or “I want out.”
  • A sudden, and unexpected shift from deep sadness to being calm and happy.
  • Talking about suicide
  • Saying their goodbyes

 

It’s not uncommon for someone who is suicidal to have attempted suicide before. Recognizing some of these warning signs is the first step to helping someone you love or helping yourself. Asking for help is a sign of great courage and strength. It shows deep character and a fierce sense of survival. It is in the act of reaching our hands out that we open ourselves up to attaining help.

 

Categories
Bullying Mental Health Parenting Recovery Suicide

Bullying: Helping the Bullied and the Bully

Compassion (Photo credit: Sarit Photography)

As National Suicide Prevention Week continues, I realize we can’t let the week pass without talking about bullying. The recent documentary Bully deftly brought to light egregious bullying behavior, some of which led to suicide. The conversation continues, however. We are more aware now that the bullied child is suffering, often in silence, and often filled with shame and anger about why this is happening to them. They are always asking the eternal question, “Why me?”  Unfortunately, there are still an alarming number of bullying incidents that go undetected, and there continues to be a systemic problem in the way we deal with the bullies themselves and the children being bullied.

Children who are bullied won’t typically tell anyone this is happening,  typically feeling helpless in their endeavors to get help. From the bullied child’s perspective, there is an implication of great risk in asking for help. Experience has proven the bully makes sure they live in a state of fear of retaliation. This is particularly true when dealing with verbal bullying such as name calling, exclusion, ostracizing, rumors, racial, cultural, and sexual taunts. In these cases, proof is often difficult. This presents a catch-22 situation for parents, teachers, and administrators: it becomes one child’s word against another’s. As parents, we have to play the role of detective and suss out the situation, looking for key emotional and physical signs that our child is being bullied.

From Sheri Werner’s book In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention and Compassion for All, she lists the following things to look for if we suspect bullying:

  • Becoming moody or short tempered.
  • Finding excuses for not wanting to go to school.
  • Claiming physical illnesses such as stomachaches and headaches that may have, in fact, actually evolved into such physical symptoms.
  • Returning to bedwetting.
  • Beginning to have nightmares.
  • Developing either a lack of appetite or increase of eating compulsively.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Deterioration in the quality of schoolwork.
  • Having insomnia, anxiety.
  • Starting to become quiet, withdrawn.
  • Exhibiting physical signs like bruises, torn clothing, scrapes, and so on.
  • Expressing sadness and/or violence in writing or drawings.
  • Displaying unusual acting out behaviors.

Bullying doesn’t have to end in suicide. Suicide is never the answer. You are your child’s greatest advocate. You have a multitude of options:

  • Individual counseling/therapy
  • Group counseling/therapy
  • Form your own support group
  • Become informed.
  • Go to the school: find out what they have in place for bullying prevention.
  • If they don’t have anything in place, take steps to help develop a school anti-bullying policy.

 

I’ve seen this more times than I care to admit: a bullying situation resulting in the bullied child being punished and/or being told to “ignore” the bully or try to “make friends” with him/her. In truth, the child bullied needs support and compassion. But so does the bully. Yes, you read that right. The bully needs support and compassion as well, and more than likely an intervention of sorts. I truly believe that bullying is a symptom of a greater problem. What that problem may be isn’t an excuse for the negative behavior, but it still needs to be addressed.

There’s no doubt that it’s difficult to find compassion for a child who bullies, because their behavior is so hurtful and over the top, but suffering comes in all shapes and forms and it behooves us to take this into consideration.  A kid who goes home to violence, neglect, etc., or who suffers from unaddressed mental illness or a learning disability, or who didn’t have sufficient emotional connection in their early years may not know how to handle problems that arise. From the perspective of the administration and teachers, this is really an opportunity (and challenge) to A: monitor the bully, and B: help redirect and reteach the bully to change their thinking and behavioral processes to fit into a healthier social model. For the bully, their saving grace might just be the school they are in, if that school has methods in place to help them. The key is not to give up on them; they, too, deserve a chance to recover and change.

 

There are resources out there! You are not alone in this, regardless if you are the parent of the bullied or the bully.

www.soulshoppe.com (elementary and middle school)

www.challengeday.org (high school)

Books to read:

The Mindful Child – Susan Keiser Greenland

In Safe Hands: Bullying Prevention With Compassion for All – Sheri Werner

Categories
Mental Health Recovery Suicide

National Suicide Prevention Week: 9/9 – 9/15

The week of September 9-September 15 is National Suicide Prevention Week. Did you know that 121 million people worldwide suffer from depression yet two-thirds of those never get help? Depression is a leading cause of suicide making suicide the third leading cause of death for adolescents. (Via TWLOHA)  These numbers are neither comforting nor acceptable. In addition to National Suicide Prevention Week, the International Association for Suicide Prevention deemed September 10 World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). This means we start Suicide Prevention Week off with a day of real action.

  • Data from the WHO indicate that approximately one million people worldwide die by suicide each year. This corresponds to one death by suicide every 40 seconds.
  • The number of lives lost each year through suicide exceeds the number of deaths due to homicide and war combined. Suicide attempts and suicidal ideation are far more common; for example, the number of suicide attempts may be up to 20 times the number of deaths by suicide.
  •  It is estimated that about 5% of persons attempt suicide at least once in their life and that the lifetime prevalence of suicidal ideation in the general population is between 10 and 14%.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among the young.
  • Suicide statistics may not always be accurate. Many suicides are hidden among other causes of death, such as single car, single driver road traffic accidents, unwitnessed drownings and other undetermined deaths.
  • Suicide is estimated to be under-reported for multiple reasons including stigma, religious concerns and social attitudes.
  • The psychological and social impact of suicide on the family and community is enormous.
  • The economic costs associated with self-inflicted death or injuries are estimated to be in the billions of US dollars a year.

Who is at Risk of Suicide?

  • Suicide affects everyone, but some groups are at higher risk than others.
  • A history of previous suicide attempt(s) or self-harm is the strongest predictor of future death by suicide, corresponding to a 30-40 times higher suicide rate than the general population.
  • People with a psychiatric disorder and/or substance-related disorder.
  • Those who experience stressful life events

Take action!

  • Light a candle near a window at 8 pm on WSPD and show unified support for suicide prevention.
  • Use social media to get involved. Go nuts! The hashtags for Twitter and Tumblr are #WSPD12 and #TWLOHA
  • Check out To Write Love on Her Arms on Twitter (@TWLOHA) and Facebook. There will be an orange logo you can use as a profile pic to show your support.

If you are suffering, please tell someone. I want to believe that within each of us lies the dim light of hope. If you see a friend suffering, please don’t walk away. More than anything, they need your love and compassion so that dim light can brighten. Help is as far as an outstretched hand or a phone call. We can change those statistics one person at a time.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

1-800-273-TALK

Visions is also here to help you no matter the time, day or night:  866-889-3665

Categories
Guest Blogs Mental Health Recovery Suicide

Guest Blogging in the Recovery Community

I was recently asked to participate in Pat Moore Foundation’s Guest Blogging program. What an honor! It’s wonderful to be a part of a blogging community that not only supports other recovery bloggers but is willing to join forces with them. The blog I wrote is called “Obscure Thoughts of Suicide are Still Thoughts of Suicide” and addresses suicide and addiction from a more introspective and personal perspective. I wrote it on the heals of one of our more recent blogs entitled “Suicide, Neither an Answer nor a Solution.” With the onslaught of bullying and teen suicides, It’s important we pay closer attention to the subtle signs so we can offer help and solutions. It doesn’t feel good to suffer from suicidal ideation. It’s scary and it’s lonely. We as parents, friends, teachers, counselors, therapists, and doctors can help—one active-listening moment at a time.

Check out the guest blog from Rob Grant aka Recovery Rob on Twitter as well as the wonderful write-up he did about it. He has almost two decades of recovery and writes regularly for the Pat Moore Foundation. He is essentially, the “me” of the Pat Moore Foundation.  You can also see some of his blogs here.

Categories
Bullying Mental Health Suicide

Suicide: Neither an Answer nor a Solution

Suicide so often “comes as a surprise” to those left behind, but in all honesty, the signs

were more than likely always there. The identifying factors that lead up to this type of tragedy are many, but in our busy, multitasking lives, we tend to overlook them or dismiss them as part and parcel to growing up, particularly the subtle hints. While I can’t speak for most kids or adults, I can tell you that the inner turmoil which occurs in the mind of someone  who’s suffering from suicidal thoughts is akin to severe emotional isolation—with it comes the delusion that one is “the other,” so different from those around them, they can’t even begin to integrate. Often times, those who are bullied struggle with suicidal ideation. Often times, no one even knows.

Of late, there have been several anti-bullying videos, songs, as well as organizations who are ardently amping up their efforts to bring awareness to this issue. It’s not that bullying in and of itself is tantamount to suicide, but those that are bullied often get to a place emotionally where they simply give up trying. If drugs and alcohol can’t numb the pain, or if cutting can’t raise the endorphins enough to eradicate one’s uncomfortable emotions, then suicide suddenly can look like an option. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the CDC, “Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15-19 died by suicide,” and “Just under six times as many males as females ages 20-24 died by suicide.” Risk factors for suicide attempts include things like:

  • Depression and other forms of mental illness
  • Addiction;
  • A family history of mental disorders or substance abuse;
  • Family history of suicide;
  • History of physical or sexual abuse;
  • Firearms in the home
  • Incarceration
  • Exposure to suicidal behavior of others (family members, friends, media)

It’s important to note, however, that suicide is an extreme reaction to stress. There are many people in and out of recovery who can check off many of the above factors but are not suicidal. Regardless, the risks are notable and should be viewed with great concern and scrutiny.

I remember being a teen and feeling isolated and very much like “the other.” The irony is, the one and only time I was directed to the suicide hotline, I wasn’t actually suicidal. I was just a surly teen. Later, however, the internal dialogue of self-loathing and lack of self-worth drove me to put myself in more and more unsafe places. It wasn’t until many 4th steps later when I realized my actions were not only a cry for help, they were, in fact a means of subversive suicidal ideation. As a teen, I needed my parents and didn’t have them, either due to their emotional unavailability or their absence. As a parent myself, I have learned that despite the adolescent, parent-hating bluster, I am needed—we are needed. A child who can come home and talk openly to a parent is, in my opinion, less likely to revert inward. Talking about being bullied, asking for help, and getting it, is invaluable, and we, as parents, need to provide the environment in which our kids can safely do that. If not, then we risk being left behind, drowning in grief and unanswerable questions.

**If you or someone you know is thinking about or talking about suicide,take it seriously. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). It is available 24/7.