Exposing a suicide myth


Melissa Martin, Ph.D.



There is a big myth that circulates about suicide. Myth: Talking about suicide to kids will plant the thought in their heads to commit suicide.

Reasons why this myth is erroneous:

1. Youth are exposed to suicide information in the news and on social media.

2. Students know suicidal peers or hear about teens that commit suicide in their schools or communities.

3. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has asserted there is no evidence of increased suicide ideation or behavior among program participants in reference to school-based suicide prevention programming.

“You do not give a person ideas about suicide by talking about it. The opposite is true. If a person is depressed or unhappy, discussing their feelings openly and allowing them to express how they feel is one of the most helpful things you can do. Even if they have had suicidal thoughts, giving them permission to express those thoughts can relieve some of the anxiety and provide an avenue to recognize other ways to escape their pain and sadness,” says The Jason Foundation www.prp.jasonfoundation.com.

Facts

1. According to the CDC, in 2015, “suicide was the third leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 14, and the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 15 and 34” in the United States.

2. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among adolescents ages 15 to 19, according to a 2016 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

3. From 2012 to 2014, an average of 187 Ohio youths died by suicide each year, according to the Ohio Department of Health and Ohio Violent Death Reporting System.

John Kalafat, Ph.D., has studied implementation and evaluation of school-based programs for youth suicide, and he did not find any evidence that suicidal thoughts or behaviors increased after a school presentation. www.sptsusa.org.

School-based suicide prevention programs educate youth on suicide signs, myths, how to find help and reputable resources, and what action to take for self or a peer. School employees attend training on youth suicide, and are able to offer support, treatment referrals and follow-up.

We need to stop making “suicide” a taboo word due to our adult fears. Open dialogue without shaming or judging adolescents will allow honest discussion. The stigmatism that surrounds suicide keeps knowledge, facts and information in the shadows. Suicide personally affects the lives of adolescents when family members or friends attempt or complete suicide, so it’s no secret.

“Suicide is an attempt to solve a problem of intense emotional pain with impaired problem-solving skills,” Kalafat reported. Teaching emotional regulation skills to adolescents and how to find workable solutions is foundational for suicide prevention. Breaking the silence about suicide allows conversation about alternatives. Problems that seem hopeless are solvable with support and guidance from adults.

When parents bring up the topic of suicide, they are giving kids permission to communicate thoughts and feelings. Asking questions and listening to your child will help you correct myths and share facts.

As a child therapist, I’ve talked to many parents who were surprised to learn about the suicide myth. And in family counseling with the teen, we dispelled the falsehood that talking about suicide plants a seed to kill oneself.

World Suicide Prevention Day, organized by the International Association for Suicide Prevention, is Sept. 10. Various events are held to raise awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death.

Resources: The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, www.sptsusa.org; Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation, www.ohiospf.org; and Ohio Suicide Prevention Resource Center, www.sprc.org/states/ohio.

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Melissa Martin, Ph.D.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.

Melissa Martin, Ph.D., is an author, self-syndicated columnist, educator and therapist. She resides in Scioto County, Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.