Middle school suicide is a real mental health problem. Child Trends reports that it is the “second leading cause of death among teenagers.” In fact, the Jason Foundation points out that “More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined.” That is a staggering reality to face. So, what can we do to change this? How can we take proactive measures to prevent so many young teen from falling victim to suicide?
Here are 4 ways we can help.
- Develop a Good Relationship with the Teenager. This is especially true if you are a parent, teacher, counselor, etc. But it is also important if you are a friend of the same age. The suicidal teen has to know you truly care about him or her before you can help. If you are an authority figure, you can do this by providing a safe environment for the person, a home or a classroom. And whether you are an authority figure in the teen’s life or a friend, you can spend quality time with that person. Sometimes just being there says “I care about you.” It is also important that you listen. Don’t just talk. In many cases the teen wants to commit suicide so someone will finally listen. You can give that to the person now while the opportunity is still there.
- Be Supportive but Not Overbearing. It is good to listen. And in is also good to give advice. But it’s important not to lecture, fuss at, or punish a teenage who is contemplating suicide. Suicidal teens need for someone to encourage them beyond their circumstances, not for someone to discipline them for their feelings. Support them through their pain and help them to walk through it.
- Encourage Good Ways to Handle Emotions. It is important that you don’t deny what the teenager is feeling. Even if you disagree with why the person feels a certain way, his or her feelings are still very real. And there are good ways to handle those feelings. Help the teenager to see and to explore those ways by encouraging healthy options.
- Help Them See the Bigger Picture. This concept alone could be the very thing that helps the person not to commit suicide. Help him or her to see beyond the moment into something new. In other words, encourage the future. Give them something to hope for, to look forward to. Don’t discredit what they feel now, acknowledge it. But don’t stop there. Give them more. For example, you could say, “I know you want to kill yourself because your dad left you and feel abandoned, but then who will finish repairing the car that you started fixing last month?” You see, you give the teenager something else to focus us, something in front of him or her that will pull them from where they’re at into something better.
Suicide is a real threat, and it affects a lot of middle school students. But by developing a good relationship with the person, supporting them, encouraging good ways to handle their problem, and helping them to see the bigger picture you can make a world of difference in their lives. You could be the reason why that person decides to live.
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