Suicide prevention is a community effort.
The combined efforts of our local hospitals and school districts regarding suicide prevention in our area schools are very encouraging (news story, Nov. 18).
Our collective attempts specifically aimed at helping children and adolescents is overdue, especially as we hear medical professionals and community leaders share increasing numbers of hospital visits and mental health referrals. I am grateful to live in a community that is determined to protect the most valuable resource we have — our children.
As we consider how to move forward with sensitivity, we must remember that children and teenagers are not always able to see beyond their circumstances. As a result, even the most developmentally normal issues can contribute to their feelings of hopelessness and helplessness that may result in suicidal ideation. Fear of disappointing others, a breakup, an argument or loss of a friendship, the death of a loved one or friend, parent’s divorce, sexual or physical abuse or other significant trauma are all things that can bring strong feelings of anxiety or depression that children and teenagers can’t understand and are ill-equipped to handle alone.
Students often choose to share with someone they know and trust, and if you are a trusted confidante, it is important for you to understand your own limitations. You can be available without judgment while offering a listening ear and a helping hand as you refer them to professionals to manage those issues that are beyond your ability or training to understand.
Knowing your available resources is vital — for everyone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 and the website at suicidepreventionlifeline.org offer help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. School counselors and administrators, hospitals, emergency rooms, mental health professionals … it takes everyone working together, which is the beauty of these efforts.
One place for help is the LeTourneau Center for Counseling, which offers sliding scale fees for one-on-one and family counseling (letu.edu/counseling).
A service of LeTourneau University, the Center for Counseling reflects the findings of a recent study published in the American Psychological Association’s journal “Spirituality in Clinical Practice.” According to the study, faith-based organizations consistently identify perspectives on suicide prevention that are relevant, varied, psychologically minded and consistent with the views of others. They recognized that increased capacity building and proactive engagement with suicidal persons are important prevention strategies, and these certainly occur through strong therapeutic relationships.
I am encouraged to see our community coming together to invest in the mental and emotional health of our children. If we have learned anything from the tragedies of in the not-so-distant past, we know that community is necessary for growth and for health. As all students are encouraged to show love, compassion and kindness toward one another, we will see less isolation and more connection.
One of the most inspiring stories that emerged after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 was the foundation that was launched by a mother whose daughter was killed. The goal of the foundation? To ensure that every single child on a school campus is known by a leader on campus to combat not just violence toward others but toward self. That is a worthy goal.
As we look for more opportunities to bring about positive change, let’s support the numerous efforts already in place. We can certainly expect more open conversations about suicide and other mental health issues, and that is a good thing. In January, I am offering a workshop on parent-child relationships entitled “What’s Your Teen’s Favorite Color?” The session, along with a few others, is available during The Rise, which has become a well-known youth conference in Longview every January (EastTexasRise.com). Rooted in the Rise, the sessions for parents are available while the youth are engaged with student activities. My session will emphasize how to develop closeness between parents and children through positive face-to-face interactions, while also teaching them how to develop boundaries and foster healthy self-reliance that is age appropriate.
We can teach empathy and respect, but also must teach children and teenagers how to have conversations with others who may disagree with them, without causing emotional rifts in friendships.