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Suicide: Risk Factors vs. Protective Factors


As a professional who works with a high risk population (individuals with an opiate use disorder) I am faced with the reality of suicide ideation/thoughts on a daily basis. As a community member that works with youth at risk I regularly hear suicidal talk. As a father of a young man with a mental illness I have been impacted by suicidal threat. I cannot seem to escape the dark subject of death by self murder. As a result I have made it a part of my life work to educate the public as much as I can and to build networks of communities to come alongside those who struggle with their dark passengers of hopelessness and helplessness.

Researchers have spent many years studying specific factors related those who are vulnerable to the allure of suicide, risk factors as well as protective factors. If the church is to come alongside those who suffer so much that they are considering taking their own lives, we must understand the complexities that lead an individual to those crossroads.

Risk Factors

Mental Health/Substance Abuse

One national survey reports that 82% of people with suicidal thoughts had a mental health disorder. The same survey reports that 94% of individuals had made a plan to commit suicide, and 88% had a previous suicide attempt in the last year.

There are five mental health disorders that increase the risk of suicide; Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), bipolar disorder, major depression, schizophrenic, and anorexia with major depressive disorder being the most common among those who attempt suicide.

Stressful Life Events

  • Sexual orientation
  • Childhood sexual abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Interpersonal conflict
  • Social isolation
  • Owning weapons (particularly firearms)
  • Poverty
  • Homelessness
  • Lower class
  • Economic recession
  • Chronic pain
  • PTSD (combat trauma)
  • Immigration

Protective Factors

  • Strong social support
  • Engagement in faith communities
  • Spiritual disciplines
  • Moral conflict about suicide
  • Having a sense of purpose/meaning
  • Emotional regulation skills
  • Coping skills/problem solving skills
  • Having people who will miss us
  • Internal perseverance
  • A sense of responsibility

Talking about suicide will not “plant” the idea in someone’s head.  The idea is likely already there and speaking about it validates the struggle of the individual suffering.  It removes the shame and stigma surrounding it.

  1. Can you identify any of the risk factors in the young people you love?
  2. How can our ministries, families, and communities upon the basic understanding of risk and protective factors to support those in our care?
  3. What is the next step for your ministry, family, or community towards increasing protective factors and reducing risk factors? How will you go about doing this?  Who will you ask for help?  What barriers stand in your way?  What resources/assets do you already have available?
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World Suicide Prevention Day


The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.

 

If you are in crisis or thinking about suicide you deserve immediate support please call The Trevor Lifeline1-866-488-7386

Curriculum For Discussing Teen Suicide


With teen suicide getting more attention in the news lately it has been revealed that there is a lack of resources to effectively discuss the subject with our students.  It is important to have these discussion but it is equally important to have good discussions.  The following are guideline for having those discussions, in a formal setting, with your students and their parents.

A special concern for the leader to take into account is that you can’t discuss suicide without touching on your own feelings – students’ and your own.  Discussion of suicide will not burden the student and isn’t likely to “plant” the idea in their heads.  The teacher must also recognize that this topic needs to be discussed so that students have accurate information, even if someone in the community is not supportive.  The following teaching strategies are recommended:

  • Provide structure and ground rules for the class.
  • Recognize cultural differences and protect students’ privacy. (unless there is disclosure to harm oneself)
  • Give honestly of yourself in the discussions.
  • Be familiar with referral procedures.
  • Stress that everyone can be depressed at some time.
  • Be alert and sensitive to students who are upset.
  • Don’t try to scare students.
  • Provide some lightness through a positive emphasis and permit some humor.
  • Assist students and be available, but recognize that you are not a therapist.

The first lesson promotes an understanding of the problem of youth suicide.  Students can be asked a number of questions to stimulate their thinking and to clarify the many misperceptions that exist regarding depression and suicide.  Students are also asked to identify community resources to assist suicidal youths.  Students are asked to visit such agencies and to gather information about them.

The second lesson emphasizes the warning signs and stresses that depression is common and often situational in nature.  A group sharing time could be useful that encourages students to think about a time when they were depressed.  The exercise focuses on how they felt and acted at the time, to whom they talked, and what helped them through the depressed period.

The third lesson centers on stress, substance use, and suicidal risk.  The variety of stressors that teenagers face are emphasized.  The relationship between stress and drug/alcohol use is emphasized.  Positive steps to cope with stress are taught.  Consider bringing in a counselor/therapist to facilitate this discussion. 

The goal of the fourth lesson if to help students communicate with and assist a suicidal friend.  It is pointed out that secrets must not be kept about suicidal behavior.  Activities could include role-playing communication skills.  Steps in helping a suicidal friend are identified; who to contact , how to listen, identifying negative emotions, role-playing a number of scenarios where one student responds to a suicidal friend.  In these role-plays, showing caring, providing empathetic responses, giving support, and lending perspective are emphasized.  (this is not an attempt to pawn off this responsibility on our youth, it is simply a reality that a student is more likely to tell another student that they are suicidal that an adult.  This is an attempt to equip students with “what is the first step” information and to hopefully neutralize a situation until an adult can engage)

The final lesson focuses on help available in the community agencies that they contacted as part of the homework for the first lesson.  A master list of community services is made for each student and how to contact help in case of an emergency.  It is suggestion that students receive a wallet-sized card with community resource information on it, including resources available at their school. 

*  Each lesson should provide goals, and objectives, and homework of some sort.

A local youth group would bi-annually facilitate a 6 week series they called “Coping With…” and would bring in local professionals to share with students and their families.  In this series they would address the many stressors/problems that youth face today, such as; anger, bullying, substance use, finances, dating violence, grief/death, suicide, depression, and other dark subject.  The students families were always invited and even had a specific class gear directly towards them.  The parents’ class usually addressed issues such as technology, early screening for depression, systemic abandonment, etc.

If you want more information on developing a “Coping With…” series for your youth ministry please email us at cschaffner@fringeconversations.com

Suicide Prevention


Almost inevitably, family members and friends are drawn into the painful world of suicide.  In light of the numerous cases of suicide over the last month we think it would be helpful to give some guidelines for families and friends of those who struggle with suicidal ideation. 

If a family member or friend is acutely suicidal, it may be necessary to take away their credit cards, car keys, and checkbooks and to be supportive but firm in getting them to an emergency room or walk-in clinic.  If the person is violent, it may be necessary to call the police.  These are difficult things to do but often essential.

The National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association, a national patient-run advocacy and support group based in Chicago, makes the following specific recommendations to family members and friends who believe someone they know is in danger of committing suicide:

  • Take your friend or family seriously.
  • Stay calm, but don’t underreact.
  • Involve other people.  Don’t try to handle the crisis alone or jeopardize your own health or safety.  Call 911 in necessary.
  • Contact the person’s psychiatrist, therapist, crisis intervention team, doctor, or others who are trained to help.
  • Express concern.  Give concrete examples of what leads you to believe your friend (or family member) is close to suicide.
  • Listen attentively.  Maitain eye contact.  Use body language such as moving close to the person or holding his or her hand, if it is appropriate.
  • Ask direct questions.  Find out if your friend (or family member) has a specific plan for suicide.  Determine, if you can, what methode of suicide he or she is thinking about.
  • Acknowledge the person’s feelings.  Be empathetic, not judgmental.  Do not relieve the person of responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Reassure.  Stress that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems.  Provide hope.  Remind your friend or family member that there is help and things will get better.
  • Do not promise confidentiality.  You may need to speak to your loved one’s doctor in order to protect the person.  Don’t make promises that would endanger your loved one’s life.
  • If possible, don’t leave the person alone until you are sure they are in the hands of competent professionals.

There are several excellent advocacy and research organizations, many of which have patient and family support groups with suicide prevention and mental illness. 

If you or someone you love is suicidal, we recommend contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline toll-free at 800-273-8255. Additional crisis and suicide hotlines are available in the category below, Crises and Suicide.

AIDS

AIDS Hotline
(800) FOR-AIDS

American Social Health Association: Sexually Transmitted Disease Hotline
(800) 227-8922

CDC AIDS Information
(800) 232-4636

AIDS Info: Treatment, Prevention and Research
(800) HIV-0440

National AIDS Hotline
(800) 342-AIDS

ALCOHOL

Alcohol Hotline
(800) 331-2900

Al-Anon for Families of Alcoholics
(800) 344-2666

Alcohol and Drug Helpline
(800) 821-4357

Alcohol Treatment Referral Hotline
(800) 252-6465

Alcohol & Drug Abuse Hotline
(800) 729-6686

Families Anonymous
(800) 736-9805

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence Hopeline
(800) 622-2255

CHILD ABUSE

Child Help USA National Child Abuse Hotline
(800) 422-4453

Covenant House
(800) 999-9999

CRISIS AND SUICIDE

Girls & Boys Town National Hotline
(800) 448-3000

International Suicide Hotlines

National Hopeline Network
(800) SUICIDE

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
(800) 273-TALK (8255)

National Youth Crisis Hotline
(800) 442-HOPE (4673)

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

National Domestic Violence Hotline
(800) 799-7233

National US Child Abuse Hotline
(800) 422-4453

MEDICAL

American Association of Poison Control Centers
(800) 222-1222

America Social Health: STD Hotline
(800) 227-8922

OTHER

Shoplifters Anonymous
(800) 848-9595

Eating Disorders Awareness and Prevention
(800) 931-2237

Teen Help Adolescent Resources
(800) 840-5704

PREGNANCY

Planned Parenthood Hotline
(800) 230-PLAN (230-7526)

RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT

Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
(800) 656-HOPE

National Domestic Violence/Child Abuse/ Sexual Abuse
(800) 799-7233

Abuse Victim Hotline
(866) 662-4535

RUNNING AWAY

National Runaway Switchboard
(800) 231-6946

National Hotline for Missing & Exploited Children
(800) 843-5678

Child Find of America
(800) 426-5678

SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Poison Control
(800) 222-1222

National Institute on Drug Abuse Hotline
(800) 662-4357

Cocaine Anonymous
(800) 347-8998

National Help Line for Substance Abuse
(800) 262-2463

Suicide Grief: Living in the Aftermath of a Suicide


A student’s suicide can be emotionally devastating. Using and modeling healthy coping strategies — such as seeking support — will help you and others on the journey to healing and acceptance.

When a student dies, your grief may be heart-wrenching. When a student commits suicide, your reaction may be more complicated. Overwhelming emotions may leave you reeling — and you may be consumed by guilt, wondering if you could have done something to prevent this young person’s death. As you face life after a student’s suicide, remember that you don’t have to go through it alone.

Brace for powerful emotions

Suicide can trigger intense emotions. For example:

  • Shock. Disbelief and emotional numbness may set in. You may think that student’s suicide couldn’t possibly be real.
  • Anger. You may be angry with your student for abandoning their family, ministry, and friends or for leaving a legacy of grief — or angry with yourself or others for missing clues about suicidal intentions.
  • Guilt. You may replay “what if” and “if only” scenarios in your mind, blaming yourself for your student’s death.
  • Despair. You may be gripped by sadness, depression and a sense of defeat or hopelessness. You may have a physical collapse or even consider suicide yourself.

You may continue to experience intense reactions during the weeks and months after a student’s suicide — including nightmares, flashbacks, difficulty concentrating, social withdrawal and loss of interest in usual activities — especially if you were the last person they called or you witnessed or discovered the suicide.

Adopt healthy coping strategies

The aftermath of a student’s suicide can be physically and emotionally exhausting. As you work through your grief and help others with theirs, be careful to protect your own well-being.

  • Keep in touch. Reach out to family, friends and spiritual leaders for comfort, understanding and healing. Surround yourself with people who are willing to listen when you need to talk, as well as those who will simply offer a shoulder to lean on when you’d rather be silent.
  • Grieve in your own way. Do what’s right for you, not necessarily someone else. If you find it too painful to visit your student’s gravesite or share the details of their death, wait until you’re ready.  It is not healthy to be “Superman” or “Superwoman”.
  • Be prepared for painful reminders. Anniversaries, holidays and other special occasions can be painful reminders of a student’s suicide. Don’t chide yourself for being sad or mournful. Instead, consider changing or suspending ministry meetings that are too painful to continue.
  • Don’t rush yourself. Losing someone to suicide is a tremendous blow, and healing must occur at its own pace. Don’t be hurried by anyone else’s expectations that it’s been “long enough.”
  • Expect setbacks. Some days will be better than others, even years after the suicide — and that’s OK. Healing doesn’t often happen in a straight line.
  • Consider a support group for families/friends affected by suicide. Sharing your story with others who are experiencing the same type of grief may help you find a sense of purpose or strength.

Suicide grief: Healing after a student’s suicide

Know when to seek professional help

If you experience intense or unrelenting anguish or physical problems, consider asking your doctor or mental health provider for help. Seeking professional help is especially important if you think you might be depressed or you have recurring thoughts of suicide. Keep in mind that unresolved grief can turn into complicated grief, where painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble resuming your own life.

Depending on the circumstances, you might benefit from individual or family therapy — either to get you through the worst of the crisis or to help you adjust to life after the suicide. Medication can be helpful in some cases, too.

Face the future with a sense of peace

In the aftermath of a student’s suicide, you may feel like you can’t continue in ministry or that you’ll never enjoy life again. In truth, you may always wonder why it happened — and reminders may trigger painful feelings even years later. Eventually, however, the raw intensity of your grief will fade. The tragedy of the suicide won’t dominate your days and nights. Understanding the complicated legacy of suicide and God, through the Holy Spirit, will guide us through the palpable grief will help you find peace and healing, without forgetting you’re your student.

Youth Suicide Risk Assessment Questionnaire


The threat of suicide is a complex and often complicated event for a youth worker to navigate.  Many of us have had absolutely no training whatsoever when it comes to properly handling a mental health crisis.  Often we feel like we’re missing something or aren’t covering all of our bases.  Unfortunately, we live in a litigious society and documentation such as this can make all the difference in protecting your ministry from potential legal action.

Conversations on the Fringe is committed to producing resources to help parents and youth workers navigate the murky waters of adolescent mental health.

By clicking here, you can download a questionnaire that will help you navigate a suicide threat.

Disclaimer

The information above is for general information purposes only. The information is provided by Conversations on the Fringe and while we endeavor to keep the information up to date and correct, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability or availability with respect to the website or the information, products, services, or related graphics contained on this document for any purpose.  Any reliance you place on such information is therefore strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from harm to or loss of life of, or in connection with, the use of this resource.

Suicide and the Hopeline


 

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicidal behavior is complex, as some risk factors vary with age, gender, and ethnic group and may even change over time. The risk factors for suicide frequently occur in combination. Research has shown that more than 90% of people who commit suicide have depression or another diagnosable mental or substance abuse disorder. 

The number one cause of suicide is untreated depression. A depressive disorder is an illness that involves the whole body, mood, and thoughts. It affects the way a person feels about oneself and the way one thinks about things. The taking of ones own life tragically demonstrates the terrible psychological pain experienced by a person who has lost all hope…

more…

13 Reasons Why Resources


Welcome to our 13 Reasons Why resource page. These free resources are available to use with your church, school, students, and parents. A new discussion guide will be added every other day until the series is complete. The issues addressed in the series are complex so take a few minutes to read through the leader’s guide first. There is important information regarding the emotional and psychological landmines you might encounter as you navigate the story of Hannah’s suicide. Feel free to reach out with questions. Our authors are veteran youth pastors and one is a counselor who deals with these issues on a day-to-day basis.

13 Reasons Why Leader’s Discussion Guide

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Episode 13 – Coming Soon!

Wrap Up Discussion Guide – Coming Soon!

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More


We’re excited to announce we have a new content creator to focus on parenting issues. For years we have tried to serve parents of fringe kids or parents on the fringe and we are fortunate to have Patti Gibbons join our writing team and to share her hard won wisdom with all of us. (Click here for Patti’s bio)

Her first post is an important one and addresses a growing concern among parents. Take a few minutes to read it and share your thoughts with her. She would love to connect.

After Text Message Case, Words Matter Even More

By Patti Gibbons

Two teenagers meet while their families vacation in the same place. A friendship develops and the teens discover their homes are relatively close, about an hour apart. They connect on social media and exchange texts and messages about their lives, their families, their problems. Though they rarely saw each other in person, they called themselves boyfriend and girlfriend.

That all sounds pretty normal these days, right?

Pervasive use of technology and social media allowed this relationship to develop as the teens supported one another through family struggles, serious personal issues like depression and eating disorders, and the ups and downs of teenage life.

But, this is the beginning of a story that ends in a charge of involuntary manslaughter. The weapon? The words typed into those messages.

As parents and adults who care about the lives of our children, that is a stunning statement. The words of one teenager to another were found to have made her responsible for his death by suicide.

This turns up the heat on the conversations about technology use directly, and tangentially about social media, cyber-bullying, privacy, and even the First Amendment. It should give us pause. A long pause.

On June 16, 2017, a Massachusetts judge found Michelle Carter, now 20, was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter following a trial that revealed that she, then a teen, engaged in what prosecutors called “wanton and reckless conduct” sent text messages urging Conrad Roy III to take his own life at age 18. She has not yet been sentenced as of this writing.

Juvenile Court Judge Lawrence Moniz decided the case in a bench trial, saying, “Ms. Carter’s actions, and also her failure to act, where she had a self-created duty to Mr. Roy, since she had put him into that toxic environment, constituted, each and all, wanton and reckless conduct.” [NPR]

In her texts, she urged him to act on his suicidal ideation, “You just have to do it,” one text said. After his death, she organized a fundraiser in Roy’s name, presenting herself as an anti-suicide advocate, posting on Facebook, “Even though I could not save my boyfriend’s life, I want to put myself out there to try to save as many other lives as possible.”

It is clear from the accounts presented at trial that Carter and Roy each had troubled histories with depression and other mental health concerns about which they shared with one another openly. This situation turns on both the words she said and the actions she failed to take. [New York Times]

As parents and adults who care about them, what can we take away from this case?

First, we can be diligent in teaching our children that the words they say matter and that they will be held accountable, perhaps even legally, for what they say. From this case, in particular, we learn a new limit to the First Amendment right of free speech. Not only can we not yell fire in a crowded theatre, we can’t encourage a person to take their own life.

Second, we can be diligent in communicating to our children that they, along with each and every human being, has intrinsic worth and value. There is no person they will ever meet in person or interact with online to whom harsh, demeaning, insulting words need to be said, whether we like them or agree with them or not. This is especially true for social media where there is a harsh and pressured teen culture of comparison, evaluation, and judgement. This is contrary to the prevailing culture online today, even among adults. Perhaps we can all grow this way?

Third, we can culture open dialog with the children in our lives about using their online presence for good. Talking to our kids about finding positive words to use to influence the world, be more authentic, and impact their friends in ways that give life.

A Report on Bullying by a 12 Year Old


Chloe is a 12 year old (nearly 13 now) 7th grader from Central Illinois. She wrote this amazing piece on bullying. It’s such a powerful and insightful paper and it’s written by a tweenager.

Have you ever been bullied?

In this paper, I will tell you about the effects of bullying. Being bullied is terrible. There are a lot of different forms of bullying. Some forms include physical, emotional, cyber, and sexting. Sexting can be a form of bullying. It is one that is common but no one really talks about, but can still have the same effect as cyber bullying.

There is a lot of bullying in schools. School is where a lot of bullying starts. One effect is not being able to learn what you need in life because you stop going to school because you were being bullied. Another effect is depression, anxiety, drug use, and even suicide (Effects of Bullying, 2017). Usually if you are LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender), you get bullied more. If you are LGBT, people treat you like you don’t exist. Usually they will try to hurt you if you are LGBT. You could also not be able to sleep because you are worried about being bullied at school the next day. Being bullied could lead on to drinking and taking drugs, and then you could die from an drug overdose.

Cyber bullying is where people get bullied the most today. People who get bullied on social media will be more likely to have depression (Effect of Bullying, 2017).  Sexting is also a form of bullying. Sexting affects how you look at yourself and could lead to bad self esteem. Poor self esteem is when you think you are ugly, dumb and you say bad thing about yourself. Sexting is when you send a nude of yourself and then the person you sent it to sent to all his/ her friend and then they kept sending it on and on then they would begin to tell stories about you, your body, or your behavior. And then you would have bad self esteem because of what people said about your body type. Sexting could also lead to anxiety because you try to starve yourself because of how you look at yourself or how you think others look at you. Some people even take pills that say it will make them skinnier but actually can’t. You can still die from a drug overdose if you take a lot of those.

The biggest effect of bullying is suicide. There are 4,400 death per year because of bullying. One of the most common suicide death are cutting him/herself, and taking drugs to die from a drug overdose. Another effect that leads to suicide is depression. When  someone suffers from depression, they tend to think everything is sad and you feel lonely. 10-14 year old girls will be at a higher risk of committing suicide study have shown (Bullying and Suicide, 2017).  Also, people who get bullied or have depression may take drugs because they think it will make them happier, but that can and will lead to a drug overdose if you keep taking them.

Bullying is a real problem. We need to put a stop to it. The suicide numbers will go up each year if we do not put a stop to it. People who are LGBT, an outcast, or people with disabilities should be treated equally. No one should be bullied because of who they are, they are all human beings, then they should be treated the same way as everyone else. And not just them, NO ONE should be treated like that. How as a nation or school or anyone, can we put a stop to bullying?

 

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