Teen suicide prevention
By Heather Miller
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 (NIV)
Let me live
When Kevin Hines was 19-years old, he jumped off the Golden Gate bridge. What is unique about his story is that he survived to tell about it. He said that just after jumping, he felt instant regret. In an interview for an article in the New York Post in 2013, he tells of the experience:
“I threw my head back and uttered one mighty prayer: ‘God, please, please let me live! Heaven save me!’ Perhaps it was the force of my head being thrown back or maybe another powerful gust of wind. Perhaps it was a nudge from my guardian angel, or Jesus Christ Himself who turned my body around, because I hit the water feet first, in a sitting position. I learned later that it is one, if not the only, way to survive such a fall.” (https://nypost.com/2013/06/30/he-jumped-off-the-golden-gate-bridge-and-lived/)
Kevin’s case illustrates what is often said about people who experience thoughts about suicide: Most of them do not truly want to die. They simply feel that they have no other choice and just want the pain to stop.
In the state of Louisiana, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and the third leading cause of death for ages 15-34. In the case of Kevin Hines and many teens, the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for rational thought, is not yet developed. Teenagers are often impulsive and act on what they feel in the moment without thinking about the long-term effects and consequences of their choices.
What You Can Do
- Ask the question
If you’re concerned your teenager may be having thoughts of suicide, don’t be afraid to ask directly: “Are thinking about killing yourself?” You will not put the idea in their head. Chances are, if they haven’t thought about it, they will answer with an emphatic, “No!” And if they have thought about it, they may respond with a long pause, putting their head down, or simply responding in the affirmative.
- Encourage honest discussion
If a teenager (or any person) admits to you that they are thinking about suicide, don’t rush to tell them all the things they have to live for. They want to be heard. As difficult as it may be, listen to their reasons for wanting to die and feeling hopeless. Be with them through their pain.
- Prioritize safety in the moment
If they have already taken measures to end their life (such as taking pills), call 911. If they have revealed to you that they have a plan (what means they would use, when, or where they would complete suicide), this also indicates a greater risk and a need for further assessment. You may choose to take them to the nearest emergency room, call 911, or call CART, the Child and Adolescent Response Team through Tyler Mental Health at (337) 262-4100.
- Remove all means of harm
If you are the caregiver, make sure that anything they could use to complete suicide is out of their reach. Lock up any medications. Secure guns, knives, and sharp objects. If you are not their caregiver, notify the caregiver.
- Follow-up care
Treat the problem not just the symptom. Suicidal ideation usually stems from feelings of hopelessness. However, sometimes it can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition. You may want to consult a medical doctor as well as a professional counselor.
Heather Miller has seven years of school counseling experience. She was voted Lafayette Parish Middle School Counselor of the Year for 2017-2018 and was also recognized as LSU distinguished alumni. She enjoys serving beside her husband, Pastor Jason Miller, in ministry at Amana Christian Fellowship. She also delights in raising her two sons and all the adventure that comes along with being a boy mom.