Facing reality is perhaps the hardest thing parents and their children do; yet it is the most essential and can even be life-saving. That was the message given by Gretchen Ericson, youth suicide prevention coordinator for Jackson County, at a session last week at White Mountain Middle School.
“Ask your son or daughter the question. Are you or have you thought about committing suicide?” said Ericson, herself the mother of a teenage boy. Teens are more apt to suffer from depression, which can be a forerunner of suicide, than any other age. (See side bar) Ericson said it is important to sit down, be very non-judgmental and acknowledge being a teen is hard.
The White City session was called after two White City teens took their own lives over the summer. There was a session for the Spanish-speaking participants and one for those who spoke English. By far the largest participants were member of the Hispanic community.
Ericson said establishing a rapport with your son or daughter is essential, and often challenging. “Be discrete, but directly ask the question,” said the speaker. She said if the teen responds that he or she is thinking about suicide, do not leave the teen alone. Offer some comforting things to say, but don’t attempt to counsel. The school should be notified if there is any indication or thought of suicide by a teen.
Ericson said one of the myths is that talking about suicide will lead to it. “Not talking is one of the biggest barriers,” said the coordinator.
Teens often will talk to someone other than their parents. That someone could be a teacher, a friend or a friend’s family. It is extremely important that parents are made aware of any indicators of suicide.
District 9 has had staff training in what to look for and the importance of being a good listener when a child comes to them with a concern. At the high school Rob Cowden and Sonja Lemacks are available as counselors. While the middle schools do not have counselors, the principals should be contacted if a parent has a concern about their child.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent
Signs of depression
• Sad, irritable or angry for 2 weeks or more
• Withdrawal from family or friends
• Frequent crying spells
• Feelings of Being unable to satisfy expectations
• Lack of Energy or motivation
• Chronic worry, excessive fear and/or expressions of guilt
• Feelings of hopelessness and-or purposelessness
• Difficulty with relationships
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Mood swings – may indicate bipolar depression
• Difficulty concentrating
• Persistent boredom
• Change in school performance/attitude about school
• Substance abuse
• Describes self as bad or stupid
• Preoccupation with death and dying
• Suicidal thoughts and plans
• Immediate attention strongly recommended
• Restless or agitation
• Decline in hygiene
• Sleep changes (sleeps too much/too little/wakes up and goes back to sleep several times)
• Appetite changes (eats too much/too little)
• Vague physical complaints