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Calls for suicide prevention in wake of 13-year-old's death

Local experts stress talking to your teens
Posted at 5:43 PM, Jan 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-19 16:58:19-05

After the death of a local middle school girl who took her own life this week, many are calling for awareness to suicide prevention and sparking conversations of how to talk to your kids about it.

Experts say suicide is the third leading cause of death among teens and it's also one of the most preventable causes of death.

Behavioral Health & Recovery Services executive director, Bill Walker, said, "If you're really concerned you just ask point blank and ask them. Say it may sound like a crazy question, but, are you considering suicide?"

Suicide experts told 23ABC, the best way to approach the subject with their teens is to address it head on.

"You generally get a straight forward answer to that kind of question. Just like we often ask other questions of our youth, are you using drugs, are you doing this, are you doing that? It's one of the standard questions that should be asked when you're concerned," said Walker.

In a growing social media age, family counselor Linda Warnick said, parents should monitor what their teens do on social media, because they could be talking with someone they don't know. And it could be a way to prevent suicidal thoughts.

"If a parent is aware of what's going on on the social media they will be able better to work with their child to encourage them to perhaps look at the bright side of things," said Warnick.

Warnick also said its tough for teens to put words to their emotions. And the best thing a teen can do if their friend says something about suicide is to take them seriously. 

Also, bring the friend to a trusted adult. If they don't know what to do or don't take it seriously, find another adult.

"If they say things like that they need to be listened to. Maybe they really mean it. Maybe there's something going on inside them that they would love to have a friend to talk to," said Warnick.

Warnick said an indicator to look for to prevent your teen or friend from suicide is monitoring their feelings for mood swings.

"See if they're a little bit more sad, a little bit more withdrawn, if they're a little bit more pulled back from reality, they might be thinking about it then," said Warnick.

One of the best ways Warnick said to prevent suicide is to remind the teenager their life matters and to give them hope of good times to look forward to.

"We need to let them know that's there's a beautiful meadow on the other side of that dark place they're in. And if they could walk another few steps they'd be in the middle of it. I hope we can do that, one is too many," said Warnick.

The middle school the 13-year-old attended before dying by suicide, held an assembly today about suicide prevention and Internet safety with a Kern County Sheriff deputy. The school's principal told 23ABC the assembly was already planned before Monday's tragedy, but they added extra points about suicide prevention. She said the middle school plans to host a similar assembly for parents soon.