Weekend: Mental Health Moment

By JAMIE WILKINSON-FRANKS
I’ve received numerous questions over the past few weeks about suicide among youth.
“Are the indicators different from adults? What warning signs should I look for in my child? How can I help my child if I’m concerned?”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is third as the cause of death for ages 10-24. Having children in this age group and knowing many others, this is of great concern.
The warning signs for youth and adults are similar. You may notice the youth withdrawing from activities with family and friends, talking about death or statements of hopelessness expressed in conversation, drawings or writings, not caring about personal appearance, and aggressive or hostile behavior.
If there are any statements of suicide made, these should be discussed and taken seriously.
A statement you may hear is, “I just wish I was dead.” Oftentimes I hear people say to the youth, “No, you don’t” and the conversation stops there.
Start by validating the youth’s feelings, “Wow, I didn’t know you were so unhappy. Can you tell me what’s been going on?”
Listening to the feelings and understanding that this is important to them is the most important thing that you can do at that moment. Let them know that you worry about them and want them to know that they are important to you.
Sometimes I hear the statement, “What do kids have to be suicidal about?”
Their world can be just as confusing as ours with excitement, fear, frustration, hurt feelings, love and feeling overwhelmed. They may be struggling with the family turmoil, such as divorce or violence, being bullied, or left out by friends.
No one wants to experience the suicide of someone close to them. The question is always, “How can I prevent this for my child?”
The answer is to talk about it. Even though I’m a therapist and talk about this topic regularly, I still find it uncomfortable to talk about with my children.
I make an effort to talk about our thoughts and feelings when there are news stories or suicides in our community. What I have noticed over the years is that my children have gotten more comfortable talking about their concerns for friends and the feelings that they have. I would rather be uncomfortable now than the alternative.
If you have concerns about your child, talk to them.
Wilkinson-Franks is a licensed independent social worker with JWF Counseling, Findlay. If you have a mental health question, please write to: Mental Health Moment, The Courier, P.O. Box 609, Findlay, OH 45839.

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