Teen Suicide – Why Our Town?

Parents, you MATTER

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Restore the Broken

13 yr old girl kills herself.  Until this, most of her middle school peers had never even heard the word “suicide”.  (Multiple clients of mine who are this age, mentioned they learned what suicide was from the news about this young girl).

A few weeks prior, a high school dropout passes away but very few people attended the funeral.  Most of the old classmates didn’t even knew who this person was… I wonder why they felt alone…

A month later, a student shoots himself in the bus loop one school morning, filled with depression and a sadness so deep, he wanted others to recognize that depresssion is real.  Mental illness is REAL.  Same day, another child commits suicide.  A few weeks later, another student breaks in and attempts suicide by Isolated teentaking pills from the nurse’s clinic at their school.  The public knows about 4, then 6, possibly 8 now?  But, I personally, know of many more.  How many are there really?  Does the number matter?  All in the same town – all in the same community that I call home – that I chose to raise my children in.

SUICIDE — WHY OUR TOWN??

Because the truth is, suicide happens much more frequently than the public knows about.  Being an LMFT counselor, working in the school system, with the foster care system, and the juvenile justice system, I can assure you this is not new.  This is not isolated to just big cities.  It happens everywhere.  BUT, kids are speaking out now.  In HUGE devastating permanent ways, they are speaking out.

Suicide Text Hotline

Many of the teens I work with or who come in for therapy after suicide attempts, all mention very similar thoughts:  “I get it.  Know one cares about me.  But, maybe if I can help someone else, then my life would have meant something.    I have no reason to live or go on in this hellhole, so maybe my death will get other parents to wake up and realize their kids need help.  I just want peace and to feel better.  Everyone keeps saying they (those who have committed suicide) are at peace now and aren’t having to face demons anymore.  I want that peace too.”

You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow – what a sick way or wrong way of thinking”.  It makes sense to them.  Under all the depression, they are still kids who are searching for love and acceptance.  They want others to feel loved and accepted.  20 yrs, I have worked with, studied, lived amongst, and wrapped my life around teenagers.  EVERY teen has these thoughts at one point or another, “I can’t go on like this.  I just want to crawl in a hole and die.  I want to go to sleep and not wake up.”  NOT every teen is suicidal and most do want to wake up after a terrible day.  But, these are fleeting thoughts that creep in after a bad breakup, an embarrassing moment at school, failing a class, being disappointed by crappy parenting, even not making a school drama or the football team.

DreamsFulfill Needs  Most parents want to believe that this type of talk is just for the moment.  They’ve given their child everything – a home, nice things, love, family.  Sometimes, love and caring is not enough.  Depression can be genetic or medically based.  Suicide doesn’t occur to just unhappy and lonely teens.  Suicide is the result of untreated depression.  If your child has depression, it is not enough.  They need a professional to help them cope, help them understand their thoughts, their feelings, why they are depressed and how to overcome it.  How can a parent decide if their child is having a bad day or if they are more depressed than they realize?  As a parent, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your teen’s phone, on their sports, on their hobbies.  The $140-300 it costs to get a mental health assessment or evaluation done by a local mental health professional is WORTH YOUR CHILD’S LIFE.  A marriage & family therapist or mental health counselor will be able to help decipher the difference.  They will come alongside you as a parent to give you the tools to recognize when your child is not dealing well with the day-to-day disappointments and when they may be clinically depressed.

I want to share 4 HUGE things that parents can do RIGHT NOW to help reduce the risk of suicide and help you to reduce the risks of your teen falling into a major depression episode:

4 Things To Remember, Apart From What Society Says:

1. No matter how abusive/neglectful/loving, parents are STILL the #1 influencer in teens 14-18 yrs old. Teens will rarely admit that in person. But their behaviors & attitudes show it quite often.  In therapy, one oTeen girl driving with momf the most common  topics   of   conversation and healing is about their parents.  YOU MATTER, mom and dad!  Continue to make time for them, pull them out of their rooms to hang out with you.  They will pout, they will act disgusted or mad at you.  But, they WANT YOU to do this!

2. I’ve worked with teens for over 20 yrs. More recently, most of the issues parents bring their teens in for therapy is phone-related (porn, cyberbullying, suicidal talk, etc). About 90% secretly admit they are relieved their parents took away their phones (they are visibly relaxed also)…. but will rarely admit this in front of their parents. They truly do need mandated breaks.  Keep their phones charging in your room after a certain hour at night.  Know your teens’ passwords OR have a parental control app on it, like  Secure Teen  or Phone Sheriff  or  MM Guardian.

3. No matter how old/responsible/mature a teen is, they shouldn’t be left home alone for too many hours, too many days a week. Isolation & social media breed depression & anxiety.  The #1 root cause for depression and anxiety that is not genetically based, is COMPARISON.  Isolation will push teens inward & it is inticing to jump on the internet and social media.  They begin to compare what they don’t have, to a public false front that others portray that may/may not even be true.  Humans are social creatures.  So, even if your teen is shy or introverted, they need to interact with other people face-to-face, whether that is with you, a few close friends, or making sure they are involved in a youth group or a group with common interests (clubs at school, sports teams, etc).

4.  Teens need to believe in a Higher Power.  We often find comfort in knowing there is someone or something bigger than us.  For me, that is believing in Jesus Christ, the son    God as Higher Power of the LIVING God.  Regardless of what you believe, research shows that teens who believe in a higher power are less likely to commit suicide.  There is HOPE when we believe there is a future, that someone always does care, is always with us and loves us at our worst.  The Holy Scriptures mention time and time again, that God will always be there.  Deuteronomy 31 6, 8 say, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you….   And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”

The truth is:  we WILL fail our children at some point or another, we will NOT always be with them, and we WILL make them feel badly about themselves, even if it’s unintentional.  When this happens, we must teach our children and teens that they have Someone with whom they can always depend on and that God created them special and that they have a purpose here on Earth.

So, why is suicide hitting our town in a very public manner?  Because it is our wake up call.  There is a problem that we need to face, and often times, tragedy reminds us what is most important:  Loving Our Children To LIFE.

Teen boy w Dad

 

What Are You Afraid Of? I’m Not Scared

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I recently led a symposium along with 2 of my colleagues and when I asked some people why they didn’t come, their response was, “Oh, I’m not afraid of anything. I have a close relationship with God and trust Him with anything I’m unsure about”, or some other very similar response.  This was said from a few people whom I know would’ve benefited from hearing the seminar.  After hearing their responses, I realized that many people aren’t even aware that Fear is what is holding them back from being successful or having a healthy relationship.

So, I’m going to let you in on some of the notes of what you missed:

Most of us know about the obvious fears that keep people from living happy lives and being free from worry. Those include fear of heights, water, being claustrophobic, fear of germs/sickness, fear of dying, or fear of spiders/insects/snakes. But, what about those fears that keep us from experiencing true intimacy, healing, and freedom?

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  1. Fear of Rejection. We all have some degree of being afraid of not being accepted or loved for who we are. But some of us fear rejection so much, that we allow ourselves to be mistreated, manipulated, or even abused. We want someone to love us so much, that we become wrapped up in everything that person does and says. If we’re not careful, we can become so enmeshed with our own children’s dreams and desires, that we forget who we are, what we like, and how we feel for the sake of having our children love us. Often, in therapy, I’ll ask a client what they enjoy doing – not what their spouse does, and not what they do with their children, but for themselves? If they sit and think and do not know what they like to do for themselves, I know they are afraid of rejection. If this is you, you have become a slave to the love and acceptance of others and don’t even know it.

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  1. Fear of Intimacy. Being afraid of being known grows out of our own feelings of worthlessness, feeling unlovable and not liking who we are or what we do. We create a “game face” that shows others what we think they will like, admire, love, or respect. The walls we put up may include being spiritual, an advocate for community service, or we may medicate ourselves with sex, substance abuse, pills, becoming a workaholic or engulfed in our personal fitness. When we look perfect or act like we have it all going on, then people admire from a distance and don’t try to get too close.
  1. Fear of Failure. Those of us in this category experience love with strings attached to our performance. We believe that we have to behave in a certain way in order to be loved. People who are afraid of failure handle it in two different ways: A) They become driven “Type A” kinds of people who try to do it all and become emotionally and physically exhausted, and have difficulties connecting to close friends or their spouses. B) Others are so afraid of failing, that they refuse to even try. They don’t apply at higher positions, further their education, or experience the fullness that life has to offer, because they’re afraid of not doing a good job or having others say they can do it better.
  1. Fear of Abandonment. If we are alone, we believe that no one will love us or accept us. When we are afraid of being abandoned, we will do one of two things: A) We will jump into a relationship without knowing that person, and pursue them aggressively. No matter how that person behaves or treats us, we will put up with it. We make ourselves believe that anything they do, even if it is a betrayal to who we are, is better than being left alone. We have the false belief that as long as we are in a relationship or part of a group, then we are not alone. The problem is, we feel worse about ourselves, because in the midst of everyone else having a good time, we still feel lonely. B) Other people in this category do just the opposite. They jump ship and disconnect from relationships and people when the first thing goes wrong. They believe in the saying, “I’ll hurt them, before they can hurt me.”

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  1. Fear of Powerlessness. This one is hard for people to see in themselves. A person who is afraid of being controlled or losing power, usually has a lot of repressed anger and is told by others that they are too controlling or bossy. They become obsessed about something in order to feel like they are gaining a sense of power in a life that is actually chaotic, such as a failing marriage, abusive parents, or troubled children. This is what it looks like: an immaculately clean “model” home, he/she wears pristine outfits and dresses his/her children in the latest trends. Or, he/she goes to the gym daily and focuses heavily on or obsesses over their health & fitness. There is an irony to being preoccupied with maintaining control and protecting ourselves from further pain. The more we try to manage and control our children, our spouses, and others around us, the more disconnected we become and cause our lives to spin more out of control.
  1. Fear of Inadequacy. This is closely related to being afraid of failure, except we believe we will never measure up or be worthy something to anyone. We carry a lot of shame from what others have said about us, that we believe we are bad or that we are not good enough. We deal with this shame by getting tangled up in the “give up- try harder” mentality. When we’re feeling good, we’ll “try harder” by trying to prove to ourselves or others that we are worth it. When be start feeling afraid of what others are thinking or how they feel about us, we’ll “give up” and medicate ourselves with various things to feel better. People who are afraid of not being good enough for others to love are not able to experience true peace.

Until we are able to identify what our fear is, we will continue to get stuck and not feel happy or at peace. It is important to recognize what our fears are and share them with a trusted friend, with God, or with a counselor to begin your journey to a fulfilling life of abundant joy.

Photo 1:  Frustrated Guy Image via Shutterstock         Photo 2:  A suspicious woman using a smartphone outside. Photo Credit mheim3011/iStock/Getty Images

Sandi is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who works with individuals to gain insight into the “why” of their behavior, so they can live in freedom.  She is the owner of Family Life Counseling Center in Central Florida.

Debunking the Myth of Therapy

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I’ve often wondered why it’s so hard for us to see the importance of getting a mental health checkup.  Our brain and our mind are THE MOST IMPORTANT things for us to be alive.  To feel alive.  Our mind tells us when/where/why/how we do things.  Little daily things like, “Wake up” or “I’m Hungry”.  Mediocre things like, “I need to say hi to my boss when I see him this morning.” or “Remember to give the kids their field trip money”.  Major things like, “Call Susie and tell her you love her before she flies out tonight” or “I am not going to let this affect me the rest of my life”.

So, what keeps people from finding a personal marriage and family therapist or mental health counselor to help them with their goals & finding solutions, just like they go to their dentist to keep their teeth clean and healthy?

1.  I’m fine.  I have a good family.  I was raised in a good environment.  I’m an adult and should know how to fix my problems by now.  These things may all be true.  Some problems can be taken care of by exercising, eating right, and having a support system; much like we can take care of basic first aid, such as a bee sting, a minor cut, or a burn from the stove.  But, what if you’ve done everything you and your family/friends know to do, and your 3 yr old is STILL not sleeping through the night or you’ve read every marriage book out there and you and your husband are still arguing about the same issues and you’re both about to just give up?    Just like a good mother would take her child to the doctor if that cut becomes infected, a committed wife should seek out a marriage therapist to keep her family from being destroyed by unspoken issues.

2.  If I admit I’m having problems, people will think I’m weak or that I’m crazy.  It would be strange to think of someone who has cancer as being crazy because they undergo chemotherapy or to look down upon a parent because he/she takes their child to get braces on their teeth.  When we have problems with coughing and breathing, we go to a doctor to see if it’s bronchitis.  Because we have to deal with people who are of different cultures, different backgrounds, and different socio-economic statuses at our jobs and in our schools, we WILL have problems with people and within ourselves from time-to-time.  We can save ourselves a lot of time and heartache if we go directly to someone who can help us sort through those frustrations and misunderstandings before we lose relationships, friendships, and our own children.

3.  Most anxiety, depression, or other mental health disorders have a biological component and can just be treated by my primary doctor.  Nothing is more frustrating than going from doctor to doctor, and then specialist after specialist, only to find that there is nothing “wrong” with you and yet, you are still having physical ailments, infertility problems, or weight issues.    Mental health problems are not caused by solely bad genes or a biological chemical imbalance, according to the research we have to date.  Most medications (with a few notable exceptions, such as those prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia) prescribed for mental disorders should be taken for short-term (under a year) symptom relief. **It is important to note that it was never meant for a person to be on psycho-tropic meds such as anti-depressants or anti-anxiety pills forever.  They are only to help stabilize your moods, until you work with a trained professional such as a marriage & family therapist, mental health counselor, or psychologist to learn coping skills and how to handle what life gives to you individually.

In fact, many physical ailments, such as diabetes, gastro-intestinal problems, infertility, migraines, high blood pressure, joint pains, are caused by anxiety, depression, or another mental health disorder.  Our minds are THAT POWERFUL!!!  We MUST learn to listen to our bodies.  If we are continuously getting sick, our bodies may be telling us it’s time to sit with a therapist or counselor to get to the root issues that we are unaware of.  Just like psycho-tropic meds only serve a temporary purpose, other medical treatments only resolve surface symptoms, while the root cause of your physical ailments remains untreated until you seek out mental health treatment.

4.  Mental health disorders are labels that are life-long and difficult to treat.  Just like the flu comes and goes or cancer can go into remission, mental health disorders are very similar.  Parenting stress comes and goes.  Anxiety comes and goes.  Depression comes and goes, as difficult times in life occur (a death of a loved one, loss of a job, children leaving for college), but it does NOT have to last forever.  There are many types of mental health treatments that are short-term, often in as little as 6-12 weeks, depending on the nature of the issue.  Even major mental health disorders can be treated in 6-12 months, instead of years.  **It is important, however, to remain active in quarterly, or bi-annual mental health checkups, so a crisis doesn’t occur.

5.  If I seek out a Marriage and Family Therapist to help me with my children, then I must not know what I’m doing as a mother or father.  There are many, many parents and friends who claim to be experts in potty training, disciplining, and building bonds with children.  The problem is that each child and each family is so uniquely different.  There are thousands of different techniques and tools on how to communicate, how to have a healthy argument, or how to raise children.  On top of this, our society is changing at lightening fast rate and books and family traditions often cannot keep up with the new trends in pornography, sexuality, etc.  A therapist or counselor has been uniquely trained for a minimum of 6 years, had over 3,000 clinical hours of working solely with children, parents, and couples supervision and post-master’s supervision to learn how to recognize how individuals interact with each other and impact each other.

By reading this, it lets me know that you’ve thought that counseling might be of benefit to someone, maybe even for you or your family.  It doesn’t hurt to try it out and see all the benefits there are to having regular mental health checkups with your personal therapist.

 

 

 

 

Healthy Marriages, Families, Children

Welcome! Let me introduce myself to you…

I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who has a passion to help families understand each other, make healthy choices and create positive changes in their lives.  Please take the time to explore my website at Contact (www.familylifecounselingcenter.com).  I also understand that it can be extremely difficult to choose the right therapist for you and your family.  My goal through these blogs, is that you will begin to connect with me and realize that you have a purpose in life and hope in your future!

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Jeremiah 29:11

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