Part 2: Revitalizing Hope – Supporting Teens Struggling with Suicidal Thoughts

September 21, 2023

Talking about suicide is always a sensitive subject, but its importance cannot be understated. As clinicians, we bear the responsibility of addressing it openly and empathetically. By doing so, we create a safe space for individuals to seek help, reduce the stigma around mental health issues, and ultimately save lives. Our willingness to engage in this challenging conversation can make a profound difference in the well-being of those in our care.

As the month of September – Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – nears its final days, we want to remind you to spread awareness and hope every day. Let us continue these crucial conversations year-round, ensuring that support and understanding are always available for those in need.

Lydia Hatcher, Resident in Counseling

When considering how to support a teen who is dealing with suicidal ideation, I feel it is important to identify those thoughts and feelings as symptoms of major depressive disorder.

Often in children who are suffering with a depressive disorder, they may present with lack of interest in things they used to enjoy, they withdraw, and their mood may be described more as cranky and irritable than sad.

Depression in teens can trigger several challenges for them including thoughts of suicide. It is important for the therapist to explore the teens history, trauma, family situations, social situations, and medical conditions, as well as any substance use issues. We always work to create a safety plan during the season session and then review it with the client in future sessions until the threat of harm is lessened and the teen demonstrates an awareness of ways to respond to his/her symptoms.

Families can also be a valuable part of the safety plan, as well as helpful partners in identifying a child or teen’s internal resources for dealing with the big feelings that are coming up.

Miguel Alcantara, Resident in Counseling

Talking about suicidal ideation will always be hard. As a resident counselor, I was terrified to have that conversation with a client for the first time. As scary as it may feel, it is crucial in keeping our teens safe. There is a fear that talking about suicide will cause the person to go forward with a suicide attempt or completion, or create new ways for people to attempt or complete suicide. Having the conversation with teens is important as they are very vulnerable.

Teens are in the process of physical and mental development, as well as shaping their identities while navigating their roles within society. And all of this can be a lot on their mental health.

Supporting teens in self-confidence and building resilience within them is important. Demonstrating effective coping skills to combat negative self-talk and instill a positive outlook on life will benefit the teen for years to come as life throws curve balls their way.

Tiffaney Knight, Resident in Counseling

When working with a teen client experiencing suicidal ideation, my aim is to confirm the severity of their condition and ensure there is no immediate danger. Then, I eliminate any feelings of shame and guilt they may feel for having these thoughts and validate their very real feelings. I want to be a listening ear and make sure they feel heard. Next, I create a safety plan that they feel comfortable using outside of our sessions when these emotions arise. I identify what “safe” people they can talk to and what coping skills they can use as well.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, contact us today, we are here to help. You can also call or text the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988. If it’s a life-threatening emergency, please call 911.

Until next time, Be Wise!