By Michael C. Flowers-
There’s an old adage that no parent should have to bury their child. Truer words were never spoken. Regardless of age, the event is not wished upon anyone. Unfortunately, some parents are faced with the grim reality of youth suicide. Although suicide is a topic people divert from in conversation, people uncomfortably and mournfully refrain from discussing with others due to the gravity of youth suicide as a topic, but there exists the grim reality this happens far more than a willingness to admit.
In Arkansas, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds. Sometimes, the unthinkable may occur with even younger children. A description of youth suicide is comparable to a boiling kettle. Dark emotions, depression, hopelessness, and angst build up slowly above the boiling point. People may not realize one in five children has a diagnosable mental health disorder which is a nationwide statistic.
Youth Bridge is a nonprofit youth service provider delivering on a mission to help our community’s at-risk children and their families. Youth Bridge staff members include behavioral health therapists and substance abuse counselors trained to help children and their families by providing supportive and empowering services for children who are facing a range of issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, bullying, depression, and grief and loss. These issues may coincide to create a debilitating emotional and behavioral black hole for children and families. For example, undiagnosed bipolar disorder can lead a teenager to self-medicate through drugs or alcohol which worsen their depression. Hopelessness begins to settle in, and a person may not see a way out or a positive end in light. Youth Bridge’s goal is to be a community resource for schools and other youth-oriented programs are proactive to ensure children and families are provided opportunities for healthy living. Persons working with youth and families are empowered to watch for the warning signs, and people seeking help is most important.
There are many warning signs related to identify in order to prevent youth suicide. The following warning signs may include the following: withdrawing from friends and family, self-hatred, no hope for the future and self-destructive behavior. As depression escalates, at-risk children may become preoccupied with death, talk about suicide, begin to say goodbye, or get their affairs in order. Unfortunately, youth suicide does not follow the same pattern; some youth suicides may be abrupt, so people need to know how to intervene and seek professional help.
Youth Bridge provides suicide preventions training for people working with children and adolescents as well as intervention and crisis response to suicidal behaviors. If a suicide occurs, Youth Bridge’s professionally trained staff members meet with teachers and school administrators to help develop a response plan and address the students’ grief and loss. Hopefully, a rapid and full service response will show strong support for students in the aftermath of a tragedy in order to prevent copycat suicides for self-harming events.
If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, please call Youth Bridge at 479-575-9471 for an assessment or contact any other service provider in the area. A school counselor or social worker can provide resources, too. If a parent or child need immediate help, they can call 1-800-273-TALK which is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week to speak to someone.
No one should feel alone and hopeless. Our community can work together to do our part to protect our children.
About Youth Bridge:
Michael C. Flowers, PhD, Licensed Professional Counselor, is the Director of Clinical Services for Youth Bridge, a non-profit with five outpatient offices in Harrison, Mt. Home, Berryville, Fayetteville and Rogers. Youth Bridge provides behavioral health services in schools and outpatient offices, substance abuse counseling, mentoring, after-school and summer programs. Youth Bridge works closely with the juvenile justice courts in these services areas.