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Talking to your teen about suicide
The possibility of teen suicide is a tragic reality in today’s world. In Colorado it is one of the leading causes of death among 15-24 year olds. Teens who suffer from depression or substance abuse are especially vulnerable to suicide.

In the weeks following a teen suicide, there is a heightened risk of other teenagers attempting suicides in “clusters” or in a “copy cat” fashion.  This is known as a contagion effect.  Researchers believe that social networking sites like Facebook and excessive instant messaging (texting) on phones may inadvertently contribute to the contagion effect. These rapid exchanges between teenagers become immediate opportunities to express their emotionally charged thoughts, making the one who died an unwanted overnight celebrity.  Although contagion is relatively rare, many experts believe that this glamorization of death can lead to a higher risk of suicide for vulnerable individuals.

Parents can be helpful during this time by:

•    Limiting exposure to TV news coverage, texting, and computer use
•    Engaging your teen in conversation about suicide, listening intently without judgment (Research shows that talking about suicide in a supportive manner actually decreases the chances of suicide)
•    Keeping aware of your teen’s whereabouts at all times, especially social events
•    Monitoring communication with friends, including contacts by phone and/or internet
•    Attending with your teen at memorials and funerals, or at least make sure that supportive adults will be present in your absence
•    Seeking mental health or counseling if your child is showing signs of depression or risky behavior
•    Calling 911 if your teen or another is imminently suicidal

Although the time following a suicide poses a heightened risk, your close involvement and loving care of your teenager will decrease that risk significantly.

Resources:

CARE Line:  720-554-2273.  The CARE line is the Cherry Creek School District's 24-hour phone message line where concerns about safety/threatening/dangerous situations can be reported by students, parents, or school staff. Calls may remain confidential and anonymous.
 
Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255).  A 24-hour phone line where you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area.

After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools (American Foundation for Suicide Prevention)
http://www.afsp.org/files/Surviving/toolkit.pdf

Teen Suicides and the Contagion Effect (Melissa Murphy)
http://www.nextgenerationparenting.org/parenting_focus/teen-suicides-and-the-contagion-effect
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