Be ready to listen, talk and offer support
by Amy Vanstrien,
Coping with loss of a loved one, friend or classmate is hard. Unfortunately, our community has recently lost two youth by suicide.
The death of a peer, friend or classmate can significantly affect a child in ways that we may not understand. As with any loss, children and teens need assurance that they are loved. Be ready to listen, talk and offer support. When talking to youth about death by suicide it is okay to let them know that you don’t know all the answers and that you may feel confused, as well. You can contact AFSP or a local mental health professional to try to answer some of your questions.
One common question that people ask after someone dies from suicide is, “why”? This is a hard question to answer, but we do know that 90% of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder. The reality is that one in four people’s lives will be touched by mental illness. This highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing mental health concerns (see resources below). By helping youth and their family seek diagnosis and treatment, we may prevent suicide.
The 7 mental health disorders that are most highly linked with a risk for suicide are:
Major Depressive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Substance Use Disorders, Conduct Disorder, Eating Disorders, and Schizophrenia.
Each of these mental health conditions has effective treatment methods; however, one of the greatest barriers to treatment is the stigma attached to mental health disorders. Education, conversation and support are needed to help people seek treatment.
As parents, educators, coaches, friends and neighbors it is helpful to know that there are protective factors, characteristics or conditions, that may help decrease the risk for suicide ideation. Protective factors for suicide include:
- Receiving effective mental health care
- Positive connections to family, peers, community, and social institutions such as marriage and religion that foster resilience
- The skills and ability to solve problems
Please note that these factors do not eliminate the possibility of suicide, especially in someone with risk factors, however, they may help to reduce that risk. Also, protective factors do not entirely remove risk, especially when there is a personal or family history of depression or other mental disorders.
If you are a student, parent or friend
If you you see signs that someone you love may be struggling with a mental health concern take steps to get them help:
- Talk with a trusted adult at school (guidance counselor, school psychologist, nurse, etc.)
- 24/7 crisis line: Call 513-281–CARE (2273) or text TALBERT to 839863 for help.
- Psychiatric Intake Response Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center 513-636-4124 for clinical telephone response
- Take Steps to LAST
If you are a student, parent or friend and would like take suicide prevention training:
- Andrew’s Suicide Awareness & Prevention (In Loveland)
- Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center’s Surviving the Teens Program
If you are a student, parent or friend and would like to connect with a local person for more information about suicide prevention:
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- Surviving the Teens Program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center or e-mail Cathy Strunk at email@example.com.
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention local Chapter
Amy Van Strien, M. Ed. is a Loveland parent, school psychologist and SERA (Suicide Education Research and Advocacy) member – an advocacy group, based out of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, who helped edit this article.