Things your teen won’t tell you: Help needed

Published: Feb. 8, 2018 at 4:18 PM EST
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) cites suicide as the “third-leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.”

According to CDC data, between 2007 and 2016, the suicide rate nearly doubled for girls, ages 15 to 19. It went up by 31% for boys.

“I’m pretty sure everybody here has had a suicidal thought at least once,” a South Bend high school student said.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), one in five Indiana high school students have seriously considered attempting suicide.

Students say that while cutting was common in middle school, high school students typically harm themselves in other ways, such as taking drugs or developing eating disorders.

“Or they start to bully others,” added another student.

Seeing their peers battle suicidal thoughts and eating disorders, the students emphasized how important it is for adults to take adolescent mental health more seriously.

One student said: “It’s easy to ask your friends and say ‘I have such bad anxiety. I have such bad depression.’...but it’s a lot harder to talk to parents.”

“When they were growing up, it wasn’t common to talk about mental health.”

A male student brought up he does not want his brothers to see him depressed, so he feels like he has to hide it.

“I don’t want them to say ‘Aww man, my big brother can’t deal with it. What are we supposed to do?’”

For those who have suicidal thoughts or know someone who does, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

What's the school doing about mental health?

The teens who shared their stories with NewsCenter 16 attend a high school in South Bend. The school social worker says students have access to him and the guidance office all day -- and can seek help for any issue: academics, relationships, family, mental health, stress, etc.

"Often times, parents are involved if the problem goes beyond what the student can deal with on his/her own," writes the social worker.

If students are battling severe mental health issues, he says the school refers families to outpatient treatment.

Every year, school staff talk to all students about bullying and suicide prevention. The goal, he says, is to let students know it's okay to talk about the topics and to seek help from adults.

In his four years at the high school, the social worker says student concerns typically relate to stress, bad experiences with friends and classmates, mental health issues (particularly anxiety and depression), academic pressure, along with social media drama.

"I think one thing that has evolved, and for the better, is there seems to be less stigma around the personal struggles teens are facing and a greater willingness to seek help," says the social worker.

He says many factors forge teens' resilience.

"Instead of parents trying to save their teen from struggles, difficulties and failure, they should try to support and coach their teen as he/she navigates the problem," recommends the social worker. "(Sometimes), it's what parents don't do that can help a teen."

For example, he says, don't give into everything a teen wants or micro-manage.

"Instead of trying to be your teen's manager, be their consultant and give them feedback when they ask for it," he says.

It's important to forgive teens when they make mistakes, adds the social worker.

"Their brains aren't fully developed, and sometimes the teenage brain makes bad choices or impulsive decisions," he says.

Forgive yourself -- the parent.

"There is no perfect parent and we make mistakes too. It's ok for a parent to admit to their teen when they've made a mistake. It models to a teen that his/her parent is human too and is still learning," says the social worker.