Q: Last year a friend of mine committed suicide. I can’t forget it and keep feeling I could have done something to prevent it. I know I get depressed sometimes, but I can snap
out of it. I guess many other teens can’t. I read that 5,000 commit suicide each year and that it is the leading cause of death between ages 15 and 24. Is there a way I can help or make a difference? — R.J., Woodbridge, N.J.
A: Helping others to be aware and informed that there is a teen depression and suicide problem is one good way to help. Your facts are correct. Studies estimate that 42 percent of female and 55 percent of male teens have at least once thought seriously about suicide.
Many groups have worked to reduce teen suicides. One of the most effective is the Teens in Action program of the Camp Fire Boys and Girls. The National Mental Health Association cosponsors the suicide prevention work of Camp Fire teens in many communities in each state. Join the Camp Fire teens in your community.
For information on the Teens in Action suicide awareness programs, write Camp Fire, 4601 Madison Ave., Kansas City, Mo. 64112-1278. If there is no Camp Fire in your town, you can call your local mental health organization to learn what it is doing to prevent teen suicide and depression. You can volunteer your time, help raise money, become a teen peer support leader or even start a Teens in Action group.
Remember that no matter how hard you work at prevention, you will not be able to prevent all teen suicides. Some things are beyond control; just do your best at what you can do. Let others know that changes in behavior and teen depression do not always indicate someone is suicidal, but if several of the following signs persist over time, the teen needs help:
* Sleep, appetite and personality changes.
* Behavioral outbursts or bizarre behavior.
* Overwhelming sense of guilt or shame.
* Fatigue, physical complaints, hopelessness or despair.
* Obsessive fears, preoccupation with death.
* Giving away treasured belongings.
* Talking about suicide.
If someone you know appears suicidal, always take it seriously, be reassuring, listen without lecturing, ask him/ her to seek help and tell someone who cares about the teen.
Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country.Evelyn Petersen’s nationally syndicated parenting column is carried in over 200 newspapers twice each week. As a family/parenting consultant, early childhood educator, Head Start consultant, and host of a series of parent training audio and video tapes, Ms. Petersen employs an approach of providing hands-on, nuts and bolts advice to parents across the country. You can read more from Evelyn at her web site: www.askevelyn.com