An increase in suicidal thoughts among teens happens every year between Spring Break and the end of the school year in Arizona. Teen Lifeline sees a predicatble average 10 percent increase in calls during this period.
Experts at Teen Lifeline are asking for the community's help this year to curb the increase in suicidal thoughts among teens.
Teen Lifeline Clinical Director Nikki Kontz spoke with me for our Valley Views program and had some suggestions for parents to help them and their teens cope with this increased vulnerability. Use the acronym SAFE to help keep your kids safe ...
S.Search the back of your teen’s school ID. If you have a child in middle school or high school, check the back of your student’s school ID to make sure it has the Teen Lifeline phone number. If you don’t see the hotline number listed, contact administrators at your child’s school now and ask to have it added. Encourage administrators to call Teen Lifeline to implement this lifesaving program.
A.Ask about thoughts of suicide. If you are concerned about your child, it is important to ask them about thoughts of suicide. It is a common misconception that you can give someone the idea of suicide, if you ask about it. Openly asking the question gives your teen permission to talk about their feelings, including the emotions, frustrations or challenges they are going through.
F.Form connections. Strong connections to family, friends and community support are a protective factor for teens. To help prevent teen suicide, form a stronger connection with a teen in your life today. For example, send a text to ask how their day is going, plan something fun to do together, eat dinner together or ask about how things are going in their life.
E.Encourage positive relationships. Many times, a teen’s friends help them feel supported and cared for. These friendships can come through school, sports teams, clubs, church groups and even social media. Encourage connections with peers and adults who are a positive influence in a teen’s life. Think twice before cutting off all contact with friends or social media, which can actually increase risk. Instead opt for allowing some connection to continue but limit the time or duration.
In 2018, Teen Lifeline received more than 23,000 calls and nearly 1,400 texts to its suicide prevention hotline. Most of those calls came from Arizona adolescents ranging in age from 10 to 19.
An average of one out of every three calls to the service is from a teen considering suicide. The vast majority of those calls were resolved with a plan for getting a caring adult involved. Most callers hung up feeling as though their problem was more manageable, increasing their hope for the future.
If you know a teenager who is struggling, suggest they reach out to the Teen Lifeline hotline at (602) 248-TEEN (8336) or (800) 248-TEEN. The service is staffed by teen peer counselors from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m. every day of the year. Trained suicide prevention counselors staff the phones at all other hours.
Here is my conversation with Nikki ..