The teenage years can be an exciting time of new friendships, experiences and more independence. But for many, it can also be a time of great doubt and even self-harm or suicide.Statistics from the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention show that 44, 193 Americans die yearly by committing suicide. Other statistics show that approximately two million victims of cutting are reported yearly, according to www.healthyplace.com. The Matador Messenger presents the final article in the “How to Maintain a Healthy Relationship” series with “yourself.”
“Twenty percent of youth, one out of every five, ages 13-18 live with a mental health condition whether or not it’s recognized and treated,” explained Dr. Thomas Okamoto, in a presentation he gave for teens and parents at Esperanza High School titled “ReVISION’s Teen Anxiety and Depression Talk” on April 5th. Okamoto is a psychiatrist in Santa Ana, California who has been in practice for more than 20 years.
“Parents and their kids come in and they always say that, well what’s the problem? Lack of communication. It’s not the problem… this day and age we communicate too much… What we’re not doing is connecting,” according to Dr. Duane Durst, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) since 1999.
Out of the 100 anonymous BYMS student participants of a recent Matador Messenger sponsored Survey Monkey, 73% indicated their friends are struggling from a mental health condition like anxiety or depression.
“Five to ten years ago it was a lot harder to say depression is an illness…. This has been going on since 1995 when they found out that six out of the top ten world wide illnesses were mental health issues,” explained Dr. Okamoto.
When talking about depression and anxiety, Dr. Durst continued, “It’s not a matter of yes or no, it’s a matter of degree and then it’s a state NOT a feeling.”
Several participants indicated the most common reasons that they feel depressed; 28% feel like they can’t do anything, 33% compare themselves to others, 23% feel lonely and 16% believe family conflicts are a source of their negative emotions.
Dr. Okamoto lists several reasons for mental health issues as “Family conflicts, multiple divorces, different family arrangements… (and) School economic pressures seem to be getting worse and worse.”
When feeling down, anonymous BYMS student participants indicated several ways they feel better are to; (44%) listen to music, (36%) laugh with friends, and (20%) have alone time. In addition, participants indicated that 43% of them make time for themselves 6-7 times a week, (22%) 4-5 times a week, and (35%) 3 or less times a week.
Although teens are figuring out way to make themselves feel better, “…with teenagers and kids, because they are minors, it is hard to do research because parents don’t want their kids experimented on,” Okamoto continued.
When self doubting yourself, some solutions to keep in mind are that there is always a solution; having thoughts of harming yourself or others does not make you a bad person. Wait 24 hours before taking any action. If you can’t control your feelings, and know that you are not alone, according to www.helpguide.org.
“If talking to a stranger might be easier for you, call 1-800-273-TALK in the U.S. to speak in confidence to someone who can understand and help you deal with your feelings. To find a suicide helpline outside the U.S., visit IASP or Suicide.org,” stated www.helpguide.org.
If you’re a friend of someone who self harms, you can also use the suggestions above but also you should know that most people who follow through with suicide don’t want to die; they just want to find a way to stop the pain, according to Raychelle Cassada Lohman, MS, LPCS in her article, ” Helping a Friend Who is talking About Suicide” posted October 10, 2014 in psychologtoday.com.
“If your friend tells you he/she is thinking about suicide via phone or text, call 911 and let an adult know immediately. If your friend’s home alone, keep him/her on the phone and have someone else call 911. Being alone can be very frightening and it allows the mind to wander,” writes Lohman. “That’s why it’s important to get someone in route to your friend ASAP. Don’t wait.”
Lohman states that talking about suicide does not cause it. “Oftentimes people who are having suicidal thoughts want help. Think about it, these are dark and scary thoughts that your friend is carrying around. Sometimes letting them out and talking about them makes him/her feel better. So if you suspect your friend is thinking about suicide, go ahead and ask. Reaching out to your friend will let him/her know that you are there and more importantly, that you care.”
Lohman adds that this friend has told you for a reason and he or she trusts you.”Be an encourager and let your friend know that things will get better. Let your friend know that you care deeply for his/her safety. Help your friend connect with other adults.”
Most importantly, concludes Lohman, counselors, teachers, and other adults can help “find your friend professionals that can help.”