What can be done to stem tide of teen suicide? Plenty

Updated: 2015-01-26 11:11

By CHANG JUN(China Daily USA)

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"As a father, I know how terribly complicated it is to work through tragic life events, and your unconditional love, non-judgmental listening and supportive presence go a long way in helping children heal in the wake of such trauma."

Although difficult, these conversations and time together more often than not will provide some comfort, even if it is not immediately apparent, said McGee.

May Lu, a Bay Area mom with kids in public school, agrees that quality parent-child time plays a very important role in helping teenagers adjust to new environments and reconcile conflicts with peers. Movie nights with her children and meaningful conversation on weekends are year-round rituals for Lu's family. "I believe we enjoy each and every minute we spend together," said Lu.

Suicide is very complex and doesn't just happen to someone. Rather it tends to be preceded by a number of risk factors. There is usually a gradual progression from suicidal thinking to suicidal behavior to a suicide attempt. Some 75 to 90 percent of suicides occur in persons who have had mental illness or emotional health problems for at least a year, according to experts at the HEARD Alliance.

For parents and their friends, they need to know that suicidal youth may be more attracted to death and less able to generate alternatives to suicide when faced with severe stress. There are usually warning signs that we can all recognize to help those in need. Youth in transition — whether from high school to "what's next?" or when switching school settings — can experience unique stressors that our community must better understand. The 18-to-24-year-old age group can be particularly vulnerable in this regard, as the most recent suicides in Bay Area communities remind us, said HEARD Alliance experts.

United for a Better Community, a grassroots civic organization in the Bay Area, has teamed up with Santa Clara County to launch a youth program that trains young volunteers to answer stop-suicide hotlines in Mandarin.

"This project requires 80 hours of training before they are dispatched to a San Jose hospital to commit to at least 200 hours of answering the hotlines and helping their Mandarin-speaking peers who have suicidal thoughts," said Jia Xizhi, a supporter of UBC who also has an afterschool program.

Anyone who is feeling depressed, troubled or suicidal can call 1-800-784-2433 to speak with a crisis counselor. People in Santa Clara County can also call 1-855-278-4204.

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com.

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