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

 

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.