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

 

Wait, Do I Know You?

Husband, wife partnership

Many times, I think of doing this.  If I was honest with myself, I actually have done this, but it comes out in other ways, like, texting hubby and saying, “Hey, I have a client at 6pm, so I’ll need your help with dinner tonight”.  We have 4 children and have recently added 2 new additions.  In case you haven’t counted:  that’s 6 children in our home under the age of 12 — SIX CHILDREN!!!  Even as a marriage & family therapist, the thought of this can make ME cringe.  But, this was not a choice that my husband and I took lightly.  Each of our 4 children were prayed over, planned (maybe not the timing, but we wanted 4 children), and prepared for.  The 2 new additions were also prayed over and prepared for.  But, every choice has its rewards and consequences.  This is the law of nature.  We love our choices, by the way.  Children are a gift from God.

So, how do we manage our household, work full-time jobs, AND have time to create and maintain a happy and healthy marriage?  I will let you in on a few “secrets” that are not only tried and true for us, but also for many of my marriage clients who have left our therapy sessions feeling like they can go out and conquer the world and their dreams together.

  1.  DAILY Face-to-Face, Love notes, & Text Messages.  At some point in your day, you Post It clipsmust SEE your spouse, HEAR your spouse, and SPEAK to your spouse.  This can come thru a variety of modems:  roll over in bed, kisses and saying, “I’m going to miss you today, have a great day at the office!”, a text that says, “I saw a black Explorer like yours and was hoping it was you.”, or a post-it note in their lunchbox or vehicle that says, “Good luck with that meeting, praying for you.”
  2. Quiet Time Alone Without Children.  There is more than one reason for kids to have a bedtime.  Of course, they need their rest & to be able to wake up feeling refreshed.  But you and your spouse need time for each other EVERYDAY!  This works best for us in the evenings, but for your relationship, it might be early morning coffee before the kids wake up or an early morning run around the block while the kids are still sleeping.  When you make time to be together with no real agenda, you learn to naturally trust each other.  Regardless of what is going on or how life gets in the way, I KNOW that I have my husband all to myself during this “quiet time” everyday.
  3. Teamwork.  This can’t be stressed enough, just how important teamwork is.  No one spouse can do anything alone, especially if you have children.  If your home is a 1 income household, this doesn’t mean that the wage earning spouse is the only one working.  The other spouse should be right there working alongside them.  It can look like this (although this is just one example, there are many other ways to do this):  at-home spouse reviews over working spouse’s schedule, asks for ways to be a support (make a full breakfast bc it’s a stressful workday, set up a lunch date bc it’ll be a long work night, take the suits to the cleaners bc there is an upcoming speaking engagement).  For 2-income couples, it might look like this:  Mon, Wed, Fri, kids are picked up by dad, so mom can get dinner ready.  Tues, Thurs, kids are picked up by mom, so dad can get his workouts in.
  4. Time with Kids Without the Other Spouse.  Let’s face it.  Moms and Dads parent very differently.  It’s ok!!!  Kids need to know there is a time/place to have fun and a time/place to be serious.  They need us both in very different ways.  My children know that every Wed is our library day to check out books, read with no distractions and they LOVE IT.  But, they also know that they are with Daddy on Mondays and that is their day to get candy/sodas at the convenience store and watch TV even when Mommy doesn’t like it and they LOVE IT.  Again, it’s ok!!  Kids need to learn to adjust to different surroundings with different people.  They can learn this at home.
  5. Couple in love.jpgWEEKLY Date Nights.  People often look at me like I have 2 heads when I tell them this is a MUST.  But, if my husband (who happens to be a very busy football coach, children’s coach and associate pastor of a large church) and I can do this with 6 children, SO CAN YOU!!!  It takes discipline, it takes financial sacrifice at times, but it is the practical glue that holds your marriage together (God is the spiritual glue).  There are 4 rules to Date Nights:
    1. No discussions about kids or extended family
    2. No discussions about finances or problems
    3. Enjoy the Here and Now moment
    4. Dreaming and making future goals is allowed
  6. Protect Your Most Intimate Relationship.  I’m talking S…E…X…  Men, your wife has to feel safe in order to allow you into her, literally.  This takes time and preparation on your part to create the atmosphere throughout the day to make her feel safe and secure with you.  Women, your husband needs respect to enjoy sex with you instead of making it bing, bang, boom and that’s it.  This also takes preparation and work on watching our words and attitudes towards our husband.  Men have a physical need for sex, this has been proven.  Women have an emotional need that involves physical connection, not necessarily sex.  But, if men give their wives emotional and physical connection, they will likely get sex.  If women give sex, women are likely to receive emotional & physical connection.  That’s how God created us and that’s an entirely different blog…. lol.

Husbands and wives with children, don’t allow the title of this blog to happen to your relationship.  Stay connected, give love, and expect sacrifice.  IT IS WORTH IT!!!

Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce

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The Bill of Rights for Children of Divorce has been used in courtrooms and in therapy for many years, but it still holds true. Many researchers and other professionals include it in their work.   You will see it in Dr. Robert Emery’s book, The Truth about Children and Divorce.  Dr. Jane Major uses another version in her book, Creating a Successful Parenting Plan.  I have seen many other versions with no original author noted.

The point however, is that we need to be reminded, in the midst of a divorce, that our children have rights as well.

90404d1076d7f786112eea2bbda550f1  Here is my version:

  1. I have the right to love and be loved by both of my parents, without guilt, pressure, disapproval or rejection.
  2. I have the right to be protected from my parents’ anger.
  3. I have the right to be kept out of the middle of my parents’ conflict, including the right not to pick sides, carry messages, or hear complaints about the other parent.
  4. I have the right to have a regular daily and weekly routine, one that is not filled with unpredictable disruptions, chaos, or unpleasant surprises.
  5. I have the right to not have to choose between my parents. It is my right to not be expected to choose with whom I will live. Having to make this kind of choice will always hurt someone, and therefore, me. I have this right even when I am a teenager. I CAN NEVER CHOOSE BETWEEN MY PARENTS.
  6. I have the right not to be responsible for the emotional needs of my parents.
  7. I have the right to know well in advance about any major changes that will affect my life.
  8. I have the right to reasonable financial support from my parents.
  9. I have the right to appropriately express my feelings to my parents and expect that they will listen to me.
  10. I have the right to not be expected to make adult decisions. I have the right to remain a child and not replace a parent in my duties, or to act as an adult companion, personal friend or comforter to my parents.
  11. I have the right to like and love as many people (such as stepparents and relatives) as I want to without guilt and without being made to feel disloyal.
  12. I have the right to a life as close as possible to what I would have had if my parents had stayed married to each other.

In divorce, no one wins.  Everyone in the family loses a piece of themselves, even if the divorce is for safety or very valid and appropriate reasons.  All family members are grieving in their own individual ways.  It is especially important during this transition, that parents seek out support and wise counsel, not only for themselves, but for their children.

Sandi is a Marriage & Family Therapist who has worked for over 15 yrs with children and teenagers.  She has specialized and works alongside parents through the journey of divorce for 10 yrs.  She is the owner of Family Life Counseling Center in Central Florida.

 

 

Debunking the Myth of Therapy

we-take-our-kids-for-physical-vaccinations-dental-exams-eye-checkups-when-do-we-think-to-take-our-our-son-or-daughter-for-a-mental-health-checkup-gordon-smith-338x500

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.

 

 

 

 

SEX: When Is The Right Time to Talk With My Daughter?!

If you’re reading this, chances are that NOW is the right time.  Even in today’s society, talking about sex is not easy for parents.  As sexualized as our society is, parents are still avoiding having this necessary and very important discussion.  Many times, I’ll have a parent with an 8th grader coming in for counseling and say they don’t know if it’s time to talk to their daughter about sex.  Even a teenager who has been safe-guarded by grounded parents, who has a positive, healthy foundation, and a core set of adults as a support group, still needs to have an open communication with her parents long before she becomes an 8th grader.

The SEX talk is not something that should be done over one how-fathers-can-nurture-a-special-bond-with-their-daughtersconversation – one night – or even one weekend.  It is a discussion that should occur over a period of several years.  There is a critical stage in a young girl’s life when parents can most reach the tender heart of their daughter and create a strong foundation for her sexuality and how she relates to sex for the rest of her life.  This starts as young as 7-8 yrs old.

Why So Early?

The Copycat Phase The Counseling Phase The Coaching Phase
Ages 2-5 yrs old Ages 6-11 yrs old Ages 12-Adult
  • Consequential Copying
  • She sticks by your side.  You are the “Almighty who knows everything”
  • She accepts your values and words without question
  • She wants to be like you.
  • Considering Beliefs
  • She wants to understand the “Why?” of your values & beliefs
  • She eagerly wants to do things with you.
  • She forgives your faults easily
  • She’s a sponge and captures/remembers  everything
  • Adjusting Beliefs
  • She seeks out her own identity
  • Wants to find her place in this world
  • Starts to question if she’s been taught the truth or a lie
  • Wants to feel “grown up” and researches on her own through friends/teachers/ mentors/ internet

The Tween Years are the MOST CRITICAL phase for sexual values to be e967eadf4d49f44d8840f22db576b249formed!!!  This is the window of opportunity for you as her mom or dad to instill qualities into your daughter’s beliefs & provide her tools that she’ll need to rely on to get her through her adolescent years.

If you wait until she’s 12 yrs old to tell her about her period, you’ll have missed the beauty of telling her that God created women to create life, and that’s WHY we value womanhood.  If you wait until she’s 13 yrs old to tell her about modesty, you’ll have missed the beauty of telling her WHY her body is good and beautiful and worthy of protecting until marriage.  If you wait until she’s 14 yrs old to tell her about sex, you’ll have missed the beauty of telling her WHY God created marriage to be a one man/one woman picture of his love for us.

It’s not that you won’t be able to form her values after she’s 13 yrs old, however, the world will have already issued her a fairly strong answer to the “WHY’s” in her heart if you haven’t.  Restructuring her value system after 13 yrs old is a lot more difficult than building it from the ground up.

We live a very active life and I don’t have time to spend one-on-one time with my daughter.

It takes a lot of time to answer the question “WHY”, but’s it’s so important to invest this time.  It can be the 20 min on her way to school every morning.  It can be the last 20 min before she goes to bed.  It can be the 20 min drive-thru run you take in route between school and athletic activities.

Parents who can’t take this time now, will likely see their daughters spending this time with her friends or other people who have given her that time as a tween.  You will have lost the opportunity to build a safe connection for her to retreat to when difficult teen decisions will be made.  She will know that you are not available “even for 3-4 hrs a month” and will seek out others that you may not approve of that are willing to give her that time.

I work with parents and have Mother/Daughter groups to help make this subject much more comfortable to be able to discuss and incorporate into their relationships with each other.  It can be a fun and special topic that the 2 of you can share together in a special bond into her young adult years.

Written by Sandi Burchfield, MS, LMFT, MT-3215

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist

email:  clermontcounseling@gmail.com

Website:  www.familylifecounselingcenter.com

About Sandi:  Sandi has 3 girls and 1 boy, with over 15 yrs of experience working with at-risk teen girls and children.  Her husband, Donnie and she were youth pastors at Hope International Church in Groveland, FL for 9 years, before becoming associate pastors there.  

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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