5 strategies for suicide prevention in teens

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the observance, combined with an onslaught of press and conversation around the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, is drawing significant attention to the topic of suicide, especially in teenagers. Connie Kerrigan, Director of Community Outreach, Parkview Behavioral Health, joined Colleen Carpenter, a local suicide prevention trainer and consultant, on the PBS39 talk show HealthLine this past Tuesday to discuss suicide prevention.

5 key points on prevention

1. Be promoters of resilience.
Many times, people commit suicide because the circumstances and stresses in their life have grown larger than they are equipped to handle. This is especially true in teenagers. Teach your children to manage their distress by giving them coping skills and teaching them the importance of self-care. Encourage them to find ways to promote their own well-being in their everyday lives.

2. Be willing to have an open conversation.
Kids will usually speak more frankly to each other about suicide because the conversation is more comfortable with their peers. Make a habit of initiating deeper conversations with your children, and be willing to speak about hard or uncomfortable things.

3. Ask questions.
If you have reason to be concerned, don’t be afraid to ask if your child is feeling suicidal. If they aren’t considering suicide, bringing it up won’t encourage them to do so, and if they have been having suicidal thoughts the blunt question might be the very thing it takes for them to ask for help. If you’re not sure, you can ask your child questions like, “What makes you happy?” or “What things in life keep you going?” If you notice a lack of joy in the response, that’s an indicator you should dig deeper into what’s going on in their life.

4. Be willing to listen.
Our natural response when someone comes to us with a problem is to offer possible solutions. Sometimes that’s necessary, and sometimes all a person needs is a listening ear. Be willing to hear your child’s pain without offering solutions right away. Let them blow off some steam and talk through their emotions.

5. Know your resources.
There are many resources available to individuals who need help. If you’re not sure where to turn, you can call the Parkview Behavioral Health HelpLine at (260) 373-7500 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can also visit stopsuicidenow.org for resources and information.

If you’d like to hear more from Connie and Colleen, you can watch the entire HealthLine segment here.

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