Dealing with suicide
BY COLLEEN ALMEIDA SMITH World Associate Editor
Monday, February 11, 2013
2/11/13 at 6:35 AM
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When the news came that a student had committed suicide at a Coweta school Monday morning, my first thoughts were of my middle-schooler.
Less than six months after a Stillwater teen had chosen to take his life at school, it was happening again.
The teenage years are full of confusion and angst. How do we help our children not make rash decisions that could affect the rest of their lives? How do we reach out to our young people and help them understand the tragedy?
To help me understand, I turned to Carrie Little, manager of education and community relations at Family & Children's Services.
Instead of trying to shield our children, Little recommended getting out in front of it.
"Open up a direct line of communication," she said.
She said don't be afraid to talk about it and ask questions: How are you? How are you feeling? And let them ask questions of you.
"If you don't provide answers, they will seek them out," she said, and the answers could come from peers or other sources that may not be reliable.
Suicide is a scary subject, and it's not easy to talk about, but teens need to hear from us that we care and we want to listen.
Little said that many teenagers may act like they aren't affected by the events, but in reality they are processing everything. She said it is important to be honest about it and tell your children how you are feeling, especially if you're worried about them.
"If they don't want to talk about it, respect that," she said. But continue to check in with them and give them opportunities to discuss it with you.
As children get older and enter middle school or high school, parent-teacher conferences tend to drop off, but Little said it's important to stay in touch with teachers, counselors and administrators. It reminds students that you're aware and involved in their lives, which can be reassuring for them.
If you think your child is having trouble coping or may be suicidal, Little offered some signs to look for:
Little said there are several ways to find help for your child. If it's an immediate situation, call Community Outreach Psychiatric Emergency Services at 918-744-4800. The 24-hour crisis hotline can provide support by phone or send a team out to you.
- Increasingly irritable or angry
- Frequent headaches or stomachaches
- Difficulty in school, especially in subjects that were their strengths
- Drop in extracurricular activities
If it's not an emergency, talk to your medical provider for a mental health referral in your network, or if you don't have insurance, call Family & Children's Services for help.
Tragedies will continue to strike, and whether it is a teen suicide in a nearby town or school shootings across the nation, our children need to know that we are here for them.
Continue to reach out and to have the uncomfortable conversations with the youths in your life. Avoiding the issues won't make them go away and won't provide a safety net for our kids.
Dealing with stress
Carrie Little offered some ideas to help families and children cope with stress, whether it is from a recent tragedy or just ordinary life.
Monitor media intake. Make sure the news isn't continually on and showing tragic or violent scenes repeatedly.
Focus on family fun. Play games or read out loud.
Exercise. Take a walk together, go to the park or try kid yoga.
Know when to disengage. Turn off devices - phones, computers, iPods - at least a half hour before bed.
If you would like more information on Family & Children's Services, call 918-587-9471 or go to their website at tulsaworld.com/fcsok
Colleen Almeida Smith 918-581-8481
Students and parents come and go as the campus at Coweta Intermediate High School is vacated last week following a suicide that was committed in one of the school’s restrooms. MICHAEL WYKE / Tulsa World