M/INT PTSA presents ASK THE EXPERTS.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month so we talked to Crisis Counselor, Julie K. Harmon, LPCC-s, LSW, CCM , from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital because…
-Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people aged 10–34 and the 10th leading cause of death overall in the U.S.
-The overall suicide rate in the U.S. has increased by 35% since 1999.
Here is what she had to say.
Suicide and suicidal thoughts are increasing with children and adolescents. The current social isolation from the pandemic have added stress to an already at risk population. Additionally, the increasing use of social media has also left our young people connecting online but missing the important real life connections with others for support. Often times teachers, parents and coaches are the first line of defense. Suicide is a preventable death in most cases and with some simple tools those teachers, parents and coaches can make a difference in the life of a young person with suicidal thoughts.
Young people who are having suicidal thoughts often have these thoughts long before they act on the thought. Some of the typical warning signs for suicide are:
Appearing sad or depressed most of the time
Hopelessness; feeling like there’s no way out
Anxiety, agitation, sleeplessness, or mood swings
Feeling as if there is no reason to live
Feeling excessive guilt, shame, or sense of failure
Rage or anger
Engaging in risky activities without thinking
Losing interest in hobbies, work, or school
Increasing alcohol or drug misuse
Neglecting personal welfare; a deteriorating physical appearance
Withdrawing from family and friends
Showing violent behavior, like punching a hole in the wall or getting into fights
Giving away prized possessions
Getting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, or writing a will
In addition to some of the typical signs if a youth talks about death, dying, having suicidal thoughts, writings, social medial posts, and internet searches about ways to die or trying to find ways to harm or kill self should receive immediate attention.
Risk factors for youth who may have suicidal ideations are varied depending on the youth and the living situation. Some risk factors include: previous mental health diagnosis, knowing someone that died by suicide, LGBTQ youth, youth with a history of trauma, recent bullying, or youth with limited adult supports.
One of the most effective ways to help a young person with these thoughts is to talk about it. Ask the child if they are having thoughts about dying, wishing they were dead or thinking about suicide. Research says that talking about suicide doesn’t increase risk, in fact it can likely reduce harm and save a life.
The National Institutes of Health have published 5 action steps to help someone when they having suicidal thoughts and/or emotional pain.
· NIMH » 5 Action Steps for Helping Someone in Emotional Pain (nih.gov)
Talking to youth and supporting their feelings and acknowledging their pain is the first step to safety and ultimately recovery. Be sure to stay with someone who isn’t safe. Eliminate risk in the environment such as removing weapons from a home, locking up all medications (Including over the counter medications) and increasing supervision. Creating a safe space that will allow the youth to feel safe is critical for youth in crisis. Calling a professional for additional support and direction is helpful.
· Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) (513-636-4124)
· National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number (1-800-273-TALK)
· Crisis Text Line (741741)
· Trevor Lifeline for LGBTQ youth (1866-488-7386)
Bottom line, when in doubt talk to the child about how they are feeling, support their feelings, make sure they are safe and reach out for support. Every child needs an adult they can count on to support and care for them. A positive adult relationship can change the outcome for a child.