This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.
Written by Jacie Farris
Inclusion and Purpose: Protecting Against Suicide During Suicide Prevention Month
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in Indiana. According to the Indiana Youth Institute’s 2016 Kids Count Data Book (https://s3.amazonaws.com/iyi-website/data-book/2016-Data-Book-WEB.pdf?mtime=20160210081610), one out of every six Indiana high school students have considered attempting suicide, and one out of eight have made a plan for attempting suicide. These rates are some the highest in the nation.
Tragic statistics like these are familiar to Madeline Zielinski, the Youth M.O.V.E. Indiana state coordinator at Mental Health America of Indiana.
“Youth M.O.V.E Indiana works to provide youth representation on the Indiana Suicide Prevention Advisory Council to empower youth whose lives have been touched by suicide to use their voices in making sure issues surrounding youth are heard,” Zielinski said. “We also provide suicide alertness trainings to anyone 15 and older to help recognize the signs of someone thinking about suicide, how to ask and how to refer them to the help that they need.”
Zielinski also understands these issues on a personal level, and acknowledges the importance of listening ears when it comes to dealing with negative situations.
“When I was a teenager and struggling with cutting and suicide ideation, I eventually turned to my parents,” Zielinski said. “They responded by putting me into counseling, which helped in many ways, but what I really wanted was to have a real conversation with them so they could understand the pain I was feeling.”
Individuals express their negative emotions in different ways. According to Zielinski, many youth who are suicidal withdraw themselves from social situations, appear down, lose interest in hobbies they typically enjoy and give away personal items. Some may show reckless behavior, such as using drugs and alcohol, and may even hint at ways out of their problems without specifying methods.
How can peers and adults help when youth are considering suicide? Zielinski offered suggestions that are tailored specifically for today’s young people, such as texting the Crisis Text Line at 741741 (http://www.crisistextline.org/textline/).
“Texting is more comfortable for adolescents these days than it is to go to a mental health center, or even make a phone call,” Zielinski said. “I’ve used it before and it has really helped me put my situation in perspective to explain it to someone who knows nothing about me or the people in my life. It can also ease the feeling that you are burdening someone in your social circle with your problems or sometimes making things more complicated.”
She also suggested the My3 app (http://www.my3app.org/), a mobile download that can help struggling youth make a list of three people they can call if they need help in a crisis. The app features a button to link users with the national suicide hotline and 911 and includes a step-by-step process for creating a safety plan that youth can have with them at all times.
“When you are in crisis it can be hard to think of things to do to help yourself,” said Zielinski, adding that
“this app allows youth to customize [a plan] to give themselves support when they need it most.”
Whether it’s in person or over the phone, the important thing is communication.
“I often suggest for teens to talk about their feelings,” Zielinski said. “One of the biggest factors that pushes someone from depression to suicide ideation is isolation….If you talk to a peer you will probably learn that you are not the only one who feels hopeless, and it can help to ease the burden and know that other people experience the same thing, that this isn’t a moral defect and that you don’t have to feel alone.”
Parents, teachers, community leaders and youth service providers are also encouraged to prepare themselves to help youth who are considering suicide. Zielinski recommends the following trainings:
- Question. Persuade. Refer: https://www.qprinstitute.com/
- ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training): https://www.livingworks.net/programs/asist/
- Crisis Intervention Training: http://www.nami.org/Law-Enforcement-and-Mental-Health/What-Is-CIT
- *Youth Mental Health First Aid: http://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/cs/take-a-course/course-types/youth/
- safeTALK: https://www.livingworks.net/programs/safetalk/
Combatting suicide is a timeless question with no finite answers. However, Zielinski said community inclusiveness can help the problem in Indianapolis.
She said that everyone should “do your best to be part of the community, reach out to people around you and build a social network of people you feel that you could support and that could support you. Feeling inclusion and purpose in life are the number one protective factors a person can have.”
To learn more about Youth M.O.V.E Indiana, visit http://www.in.gov/fssa/dmha/2743.htm. Click here (http://www.in.gov/children/files/teen-suicide-prevention-briefing-paper.pdf) to read the teen suicide prevention briefing put together by MCCOY and the Commission on Improving the Status of Children.
Learn more about Suicide Prevention Month by clicking here (http://www.sprc.org/sites/default/files/resource-program/Suicide%20Prevention%20Month%20Ideas%20for%20Action%20September%202016.pdf?utm_source=Weekly+Spark+August+26%2C+2016&utm_campaign=Weekly+Spark+August+26%2C+2016&utm_medium=email). Join the conversation regarding suicide prevention using #StopSuicide (https://twitter.com/search?q=%23StopSuicide&src=tyah) on social media.
*MCCOY will be hosting a Youth Mental Health First Aid training on October 27. This training is free, but seats are limited. Register at http://mccoyouth.org/events/youth-mental-health-first-aid/.