RED BANK, NJ – When a teenager commits suicide, everyone is affected. The reasons behind a suicide or attempted suicide can be complex, but often there are warning signs. The statistics are sobering. Suicide is the second cause of death for American children ages 10 – 14 and 18 to 24.
In May, The SOURCE, Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) school-based counseling program hosted an honest and forthright program to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem.
SOURCE Director Suzanne Keller, along with guest speakers Mary Fowler and Phyllis Alongi from the Upstream Suicide Prevention (through the RWJBH Institute for Prevention and Recovery), were invited into a parent’s home and spoke to RBR parents about suicide, its signs, how to listen, respond and how to help.
Funded by the county, Upstream Suicide Prevention Mary Fowler introduced the program “Talk Saves Lives,” which was created by the American Society for Suicide Prevention. She stated the program’s aim was “For everybody to be the eyes and ears for each other.”
Most suicides can be prevented through education and awareness if one knows the warning signs explained Phyllis Alongi. She encouraged parents to discuss suicide directly and, “have that uncomfortable conversation with your kids.
How we talk about suicide matters and affects the way kids talk to us about it. We never say ‘that someone committed suicide’ as there is a negative connotation to the word, but rather we should state that someone died by suicide or ended their life by suicide. Additionally, we don’t say ‘failed attempt’ as that also has a negative connotation. We just say that someone ‘attempted suicide,’” said Alongi.
The discussion focused on the possible causes for a young person to take their own life.
The presenters said that there is no single reason but research indicates that the intersection of multiple risk factors such as health, historical and environmental risks along with a triggering event can be contributory factors. In the case of young people, they are particularly vulnerable since their brains have not yet fully matured and their problem-solving skills and perceived scope of their problem is impaired.
“The age of the fully developed adult brain has been raised to 26 to 27 years according to a Cambridge University study. Additionally, our kids face increased pressures today, especially because of the non-stop exposure to technology (and social media),” added Alongi.
To understand who is at risk, it’s important to understand the warning signs:
Anyone with a mental illness; this includes but is not limited to depression, bipolarity, anxiety, psychosis, personality disorders
A family history of mental illness
Someone who has been exposed to suicide or attempted it before.
Members of the LGBTQ community (as they are frequent targets of bullying and cyberbullying)
Mood imbalance or impulsivity
Serious or chronic health conditions
Anyone who has suffered a serious concussion within six months to one year
Environmental factors – stress, substance abuse, recent suffering of a life stress event such as a relationship breakup
The conversation turned to thoughts on how to proactively prevent suicide from taking place. The first measure would be to seek good mental health care before a crisis starts. The parent should seek a therapist their child can be comfortable with - someone who is the right match, and if the child refuses to go, the parent should see the therapist for help and guidance about how to help their teen.
Promoting a healthy body leads to a healthy mind said the presenters, which includes exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and very importantly, getting adequate sleep. It’s a well-known fact technology and early school start times interfere with a teen’s sleep habits. It was suggested that parents should remove any phone, tablets and computers from their teenager’s room during sleep hours.
When their child is experiencing distress, parents should also avoid minimizing their child’s failures, but listen to them carefully and, if the child is in crisis, get help immediately.
Red Bank Regional offers parents a resource what very few school districts have - an on-campus mental health counseling group - The SOURCE.
“We are the place that kids go when they can’t handle the stress. We see them where they are at - at the point when it is happening, and that the SOURCE’s mission is to, “Remove all obstacles that impede the success of students in the RBR community,”” said Suzanne Keller.
For more information on the SOURCE, visit their webpage by clicking HERE.
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