Youth suicide in county topic of forum
|By Lisa Gervais - Editor | November 2, 2017|
If there’s been a huge shift in your teen’s behaviour, suicide prevention consultant Cecilia Mare Flynn says you should talk to them about it.
For example, if, over the past of couple of weeks, you’ve noticed your adolescent engaging in reckless or risky behaviour without concern for their safety, it could be a warning sign of suicide, she told a forum in Haliburton Monday night.
“They’re kind of playing chicken with the universe,” Flynn said of the behaviour. She said other warning signs include: threatening to hurt or kill themselves, planning ways to kill themselves, talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, expressing feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and that life is not worth living, talking or writing about being a burden to others, taking more drugs or alcohol, withdrawing, mood swings and anger or irritation, less attention to personal appearance and hygiene, giving stuff away and saying goodbyes.
“What do you do if this is happening?” she asked the 50 or so people who attended the forum at the Haliburton Legion, along with representatives of the YWCA Peterborough-Kawartha Lakes, Canadian Mental Health Association, Trillium Lakelands District School Board, Ontario Provincial Police, Haliburton Highlands Health Services and Point in Time.
She said you should talk to your teen about the change in behaviour, not trying to solve his or her problems, or minimizing them, but simply listening.
“Hey, can we talk? I’ve noticed …” or “I’m worried about you. What’s happening?” are good conversation starters, she said. “How would that make them feel?” she asked the crowd, and one woman responded “validated.”
Flynn said that type of approach means parents are setting the stage rather than asking “why are you doing that?” in a judgmental way.
She also advised parents to be patient and make time to have the conversation. Flynn said another good question is “does it ever get so bad you think about ending your life?” She said this can lead to questions such as “did you have some plans around that? How? When?” She said depending on the answer, the situation might require immediate help.
Flynn added it can then become a partnership between youth and parents, who can jointly say “who are we going to reach out to?”
It isn’t uncommon for teens to think about suicide, twenty per cent of high school students do, but it is rarer for them to act.
Flynn said the reason is they have bricks, or problems, but they haven’t developed a toolbox, to deal with their problems. She also talked about the impact of the Netflix series 13 Reasons, about a girl who dies by suicide after 13 people wronged her. She said high school students are watching the series and a second season is coming out soon.
“Help them to get the conversation started,” Flynn reiterated. “Ask them directly, openly, honestly about thoughts about suicide.”
And it isn’t just the parents’ responsibility, she said. “Suicide prevention is everyone’s business. Each and every member of the community has a role to play.”
Marg Cox, executive director of Point in Time, said, “I think it’s been a really successful evening. I’m pleased to see so many people out to support, and asking really good questions. I’ve had conversations one-on-one with people saying ‘thank you so much for doing this, we’re really wanting to learn more.’ Cecilia’s resentation was really wellreceived.
It’s been a worthwhile evening.” She urged the community to come together to create a suicide-safe community in Haliburton.
LISA GERVAIS is the editor for The Highlander.