By Brion Hanks

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Recently, and tragically, in Central Oregon two teenage boys committed suicide on the same day. Deschutes and Jefferson counties were impacted by 10 student suicides in 2017. Crisis teams go to the schools of those students to assist staff dealing with the after-effects and to help students and friends cope. Yes, teenage suicide is a serious problem.

As well, the trauma and grief that family and friends suffer, as a result of the unimaginable, can be very painful to the point that guilt may cause additional problems for those left living.

“Completed” suicides are higher with men, who are four times more likely to kill themselves than women. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15- to 34-year-olds. Approximately 40,000 people commit suicide in the U.S. annually.

The following have no age barrier. Teens struggle with self-esteem or fitting in? Teens struggle with self-doubt and feelings of alienation. Teens struggle with depression. Can anger, jealousy, loneliness, bullying, forms of abuse, loss of a loved one, a recent traumatic event and a hostile social or school environment be risk factors for teen suicide? The answer is yes!

Signs which should not be ignored are hopelessness, depression, childhood abuse, change in eating and sleeping habits, withdrawal from friends, family and regular activities, violent or rebellious behavior such as running away, drug and alcohol use, unusual neglect of personal appearance, rejection or humiliation such as a relationship break-up, pressure to succeed, and exposure to other suicidal behaviors or other teen suicides.

The stigma of suicidal thoughts or intention can prevent many people of all ages from seeking help. Most suicidal people do not want death. They want the pain to stop!

What can we do to help them through the moment, the day or the period of time to resolve their desperate confliction? Nonjudgmental, compassionate and caring questions are needed to clearly understand what an individual is feeling and/or experiencing. Listening is vital if we are going to be helpful to anyone in a suicidal state of mind.

Don’t be afraid to bring up the subject of suicide. Openly discuss it. This may be one of the most helpful things to initially do.

Talk of suicide needs to be taken seriously. Answers can lead to getting outside help that is vital in the moment or once it is determined how a person wants to proceed with living.

No one should be left alone if suicide is viewed as imminent. Whether family, friends and/or professional help like a crisis councilor is called upon to intervene, immediate and continuing appropriate action needs to take place. Compassion, attentiveness, caring and empathy must be present by those offering support, but “we can’t get better for a suicidal person.” He or she has to make a personal commitment to recovery, and we have to be proactive with unwavering support. The time it will take is the time it will take. Living is the mission that matters most!

Positive lifestyle changes may be necessary. Forms of action to battle negative emotions can be developed. A “safety plan” for the person in peril of a “suicidal crisis” may be necessary. Also, we should remove potential means of suicide such as firearms, knives or pills (medications), etc.

Suicide is preventable! The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-TALK (8255) which is available 24/7 and is confidential. Go to Resources are out there to help.

Whether for yourself or someone else, reach out your hand for help. Tomorrow is a new day, as is the next day and the next. “This too shall pass.” Coming out on the other side of deep dark despair makes one a survivor. A survivor who can help someone else during a life-or-death crisis. The choice of living is the right thing to do today and for all tomorrows.

— Brion Hanks lives in Metolius.