August 8, 2018

Health and Wellness Through the Life Span—Teens: The Right Way to Discuss Suicide

by Charity Shumway

Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the United States among youth ages 15 to 24, but people are often scared to talk about it, said Dana Boccio, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Gordon F. Derner School of Psychology. And not without reason. “If you talk about it inappropriately, you can increase some degree of risk,” she explained.

She cited the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why as an example of an attempt to talk about suicide that veers into dangerous territory. The popular series, which has been renewed for a third season, depicts the lead-up to and the aftermath of a teen suicide. But that’s cause for concern, said Dr. Boccio, who found students in her courses eager to discuss the show. “The creators meant well, but a lot of things weren’t done appropriately, like showing the actual suicide and portraying mental health professionals as unhelpful.”

So how do you talk safely about suicide? A robust answer to that and other questions comes in “Creating Suicide Safety in New York City Schools,” a workshop for school personnel evaluated by Dr. Boccio. Offered roughly every month by the Suicide Prevention Center of New York, the training gives New York City school psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors, teachers and administrators a wealth of resources for getting youth help when they are in trouble and for offering safe messaging in school communities.

“It’s important not to promote a stress model—that’s when you say something like, ‘This student was bullied and that’s why they killed themselves,'” she explained. “We want to emphasize a mental health model. This person was suffering, and it’s unfortunate that it wasn’t treated, but help is available. If you seek help, you can start to feel better.”

This story is part of “Health and Wellness Through the Life Span,” from the 2018 issue of Adelphi University Magazine. Read the rest of the story here:

Before Birth: The Best Possible Start

Babies and Toddlers: Forming Secure Early Relationships

Early Childhood: A Low-Tech Approach

Elementary School: Fun, Games and Fitness

Middle Adulthood: Becoming a Caregiver

Late Adulthood: Getting the Right Nursing Care

Finding the Words to Reckon With Loss

All Ages: Healing Body, Mind and Soul

Improving Health in Costa Rica and Guatemala

More Adelphi News

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