As the number of overall suicides, as well as teen suicides, continues to rise in Ashtabula County, many families who are affected can feel helpless and are only left to replay what they could have done differently. It is especially tragic when a young person, who should have their whole life ahead of them, feels their only option is to take their own life.
There are so many factors that go into suicide, particularly teenage suicide, that there is no one-size-fits all solution. For some children it can be bullying in school or online, while others might not have the tools to cope with troubles in their home lives. Still other teenagers might find pressure in school to be overwhelming. And that’s not to discount those young adults dealing with chemical imbalances who might not even understand why they feel the way they do.
One of the most helpful and far-reaching things loved ones can do is to communicate and work to remove the stigma that often accompanies talking about and addressing such issues.
Matt Butler, a clinical supervisor with Community Counseling Center in Ashtabula, said it can be hard for parents to talk to their children about depression, suicidal thoughts, bullying or substance abuse. It takes a change in culture, an understanding from parents that not only are these things OK to talk about but also it is crucial to do so. Experts say the old cliche — i.e. excuse — that talking about suicide will implant the idea in someone’s head is simply not true. But it goes beyond simply talking at a teen — parents must sit down and have an open, non-judgmental conversations.
“It’s not going to happen organically on its own,” Butler said. “If you’re talking to kids, they have to feel safe — that it’s safe to have those conversations. They have to feel like it’s not going to lead to being shut down or it’s not going to lead to getting punished or getting in trouble. A lot of kids worry, ‘My parents can’t know this thing because they’re not going to take it well.’ The way you prove you’re going to take it well is by taking it well.”
And one thing we must acknowledge is that, even in families that have really excellent communication, suicide can still become a reality. But the likelihood will decrease exponentially if teenagers know they can talk to their parents in an open, trusting setting. Better communication ultimately equals better support, not just in terms of suicide prevention but also when dealing with bullying, depression or other everyday struggles teenagers face.
Adults cannot be afraid to ask the tough questions because they are scared they won’t know what to do with the answers.
Help is always available if we look for it and ask for it.