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Empowering teens to make healthy choices

Written by Harriet Fagan. Posted in Uncategorized

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Published on October 27, 2010 with No Comments

By Harriet Fagan

“It gets better.” “It’s amazing.”

These enthusiastically delivered statements refer to life and were made by teens in a public service announcement replayed on a recent television news segment addressing the growing problem of adolescent suicide. The story centered on the promising Rutgers University student who ended his life last month in response to cyber-bullying.

The intent of the announcement is to encourage young adults to value life and the promise it holds for them, and dissuade them from taking permanent action to alleviate their temporary perceived pain and despair.

This column previously touched on the topic of teen suicide in August. We are focusing on it again because, as with any other epidemic, this growing threat deserves further exploration. More importantly, you and your children deserve and need additional information and resources to deal with this very real danger.

You see, the fact is that each day, approximately 11.5 youth suicides occur. And, while suicides among the general populace have decreased in the last generation, teen suicide rates have tripled.

How can you prevent such an irrevocable tragedy from occurring in your family?

For starters, do not assume that it could not happen to your child. Withhold judgment and listen carefully to what your child says, and watch for changes in his behavior.

Warning signs include the presence of a psychiatric disorder such as depression, expression of suicidal or death thoughts, impulsive and aggressive behavior, increasing use of alcohol or drugs, exposure to another’s suicidal behavior, a recent severe stressor and family instability or significant family conflict.

If you observe mild warning signs, ask your teen if they are depressed or thinking about suicide. If their responses to your inquiries are in the affirmative, seek appropriate help. Never take a suicide threat lightly.

Remind them there is always an alternative to suicide, and that therapy and medication have proved helpful to a large percentage of depressed teens. Do not hesitate to take a depressed teen to a physician.

Abundant suicide prevention assistance is available. For example, you can have a risk assessment performed by someone trained in applied suicide intervention skills. Both the Family and Youth Service Bureau at 219-464-9585 and A Positive Approach to Teen Health at 219-548-8783 can provide names.

A Suicide Quick Reference Assessment is provided at www.indianacares.org. Also at this Web site, you will find a video produced by the Society for Prevention of Teen Suicide entitled “Not My Kid: What Every Parent Should Know.” Additional resources await you and your child at www.teenhelp.com and www.teensuicide.us.

Locally, emergency mental health services are always available by calling Porter-Starke Services at 219-531-3500. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK or 877-SUICIDA for Spanish, the Northwest Indiana Suicide Prevention Council at 219-757-1972, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at 202-237-2280 or www.afsp.org are also at your service.

Whether or not you feel your teen is on a dangerous course, always remind them how much you and others love and value them. And, be sure to let them know that life is “amazing” and “It gets better.”

Harriet Fagan is a freelance writer, wife, mother, grandmother, and a former secondary teacher and writer for Valparaiso University. Empowering Teens to Make Healthy Choices is researched and written under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.) to help parents and teens navigate the ever-changing challenges of adolescence.

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About Harriet Fagan

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All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Harriet Fagan is a mother, grandmother, freelance writer and former educator; she creates this column under the auspices of A Positive Approach to Teen Health (PATH, Inc.).

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