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Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the U.S. for people ages 10 to 34.
Through initiatives like Talk2BeWell (a podcast hosted through Work2BeWell), we’re learning more from teens about mental wellness and how they cope with stress, anxiety and depression.
Two recent podcast episodes focused on suicide prevention and ways to get mental health support.
Suicide is a problem in the U.S., especially for youth. While it is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 34. And yet, most people avoid the subject altogether.
Robin Henderson, Psy.D., chief executive for behavioral health at Providence Oregon, and teen leaders from across the country hope to change that.
“We know that 75% of all mental health conditions are identified by the time someone is 24,” says Dr. Henderson. “But it takes an average of six years before someone gets help. It’s hard for people to get help.”
The solution starts with giving teens resources that empower them to ask for help when they need it. Through initiatives like Talk2BeWell, we’re learning more from teens about mental wellness and how they cope with and talk about stress, anxiety and depression.
Talk2BeWell: A teen perspective on mental wellness
Talk2BeWell is a podcast series hosted by Dr. Henderson. Each episode features different teens discussing a variety of mental health topics – from social justice to coping with the holidays. The goal is to build meaningful dialogue and empower students around mental health.
The podcast is part of Work2BeWell, a Providence program that focuses on the mental well-being of teens in the communities we serve. Work2BeWell relies on a group of teen leaders who make up the National Student Advisory Council (NSAC). Together, with Work2BeWell staff mentors, NSAC members create projects centered around access, education and activation for mental wellness.
Recently, several NSAC members joined the Talk2BeWell podcast to give their perspectives on suicide prevention and how teens can ask for support when it comes to mental health.
Three high school students from the NSAC – Paige (Montana), Dominic (California) and Mohammad (Pennsylvania) – joined Dr. Henderson to talk about suicide prevention. Each teen spoke about personal experiences, offering insight into the stigma around suicide prevention and strategies and resources for helping others who may be thinking about suicide.
- Suicide is very stigmatized, which stops people from talking about it. Teens are often taught to suppress their feelings from a young age and avoid asking for help. There’s a myth that talking about suicide is harmful, but people shouldn’t be afraid of the topic.
- Suicide prevention is the collective effort to prevent suicide through conversation, education, social justice, legislation and more.
- If someone says they’re thinking about attempting suicide, even as a joke, you should take them seriously.
- Certain communities – including LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth – are at a higher risk of suicide than other groups. This is because of extra external pressures and hate surrounding minority teens.
- If you know someone who you think is at risk of suicide, make sure they know they are loved. Support them and listen, so they feel heard. Be a partner. Remind them of why they are important. And connect them to resources.
- There are many resources to help with suicide prevention and crisis, including adults (therapists, teachers, administrators or others). A full list of crisis lines and other resources are available on the Work2BeWell website.
Talking to an adult about mental health and asking for support
In this Talk2BeWell episode, teens Molly (Massachusetts), Dominic (California) and Ashika (Georgia) spoke with Dr. Henderson about mental health and how to ask for help. They explained what mental health means to them, provided personal stories of when they’ve talked about their own mental health and suggested ways other teens can find help when they need it.
- Mental health needs to become a more normal conversation between adults and teens.
- High school is competitive, and many teens are afraid to talk about feeling down or stressed from the pressure. Part of this stems from social media’s emphasis on always looking and feeling your best. It’s easy for teens to feel alone or different, even when their feelings are normal and common.
- Teens often don’t talk about their feelings or emotions because they think talking about mental health issues means they’ll be institutionalized. They worry about not being taken seriously or being labeled as “crazy.”
- It’s important to have someone to turn to when teens are sad or depressed – whether it’s a parent, therapist, coach or a friend. Oftentimes, opening up and having someone listen can help. There are resources (for example reachout.org) to help find a support system if teens don’t already have one.
- Writing a script or journaling before talking to someone can be helpful. Conversations may get overwhelming, making it easy to lose focus, so having a guide can help.
- Teens should know they’re not alone. Talking to someone they trust can lift a big weight and provide relief.
Continuing the conversation about mental health
A big part of suicide prevention involves talking about suicide – a subject many avoid. It’s important for people, especially teens, to know that it’s okay to talk about not being okay. There are resources and support systems at Providence and elsewhere that can help.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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