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Teen Suicide: Helping Survivors Make Sense of Sudden Loss
Teen Suicide continuing education counselor CEUs

Section 1
Track #1 - Two Steps for Effectively Using Healing Self-Statements

CEU Question 1 | CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents | Introduction | Grief
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On this track, we will discuss six reasons why a teenager may attempt or commit suicide.  We will also discuss the Healing Self Statements technique.

Ruth, 46, entered counseling after her daughter, Marlene, committed suicide at the age of 17.  Ruth stated,Healing Self Statements  Teen Suicide Helping Survivors counselor CEU course “I knew Marlene had been a little out of sorts for a while, but I didn’t think it was anything serious.  Marlene had a good life, she even said she was happy!  Why would she kill herself?” 

As you have experienced, the first question the loved ones of a teen who has committed suicide usually ask is “why.”  Although each case is certainly different, I have found that sharing some common reasons why with clients like Ruth can help them begin to understand the event, which can be crucial in helping loved ones deal with potential feelings of guilt and responsibility.

Share on Facebook 6 Reasons Why a Teenager may Attempt or Commit Suicide
-- 1. To Seek Help
A first reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide is in an attempt to seek help. I stated to Ruth, “Some teenagers may feel that they can communicate their feelings any other way when they are hurting very badly.  Often times, a teenager may be afraid of burdening their parents with their problems.”

-- 2. To Escape
A second reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide is to escape from an impossible situation.  I stated to Ruth, “Sometimes, what seems to us to be a relatively minor problem at home, school, or in the teenager’s social life may seem to be an impossible situation to the teenager.  The teenager may not be able to perceive any other possible solution to their problem.”

-- 3. To Show how much they Loved Someone
In addition to seeking help and escaping, a third reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide may be to show how much they loved someone.  As you are well aware, a teenager may attempt suicide because a sense of rejection compounds an already low sense of self-worth.  The attempted suicide may be aimed at gaining the desired love and acceptance.  Clearly, however, the attempt may result in death even if this was not the original intention.

-- 4. To Make things Easier for Others
A fourth reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide is to make things easier for others.  I stated to Ruth, “If a teenager has developed a negative sense of self-worth, she or he may see him or herself as relatively unimportant or expendable.  He or she may sincerely believe that by dying, he or she will make things easier for their loved ones.”

-- 5. To Make People Sorry
A fifth reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide is to make people sorry or to manipulate others.  As you have seen, some teenagers may not have learned how to express anger properly.  These youths may attempt to punish or manipulate other for the way they were treated.  In some cases, the anger may be so intense that the teenager sees death as the only way to make others truly sorry.

-- 6. A Loss of Control
In addition to seeking help, escaping, proving love, to make things easier for others, and to make people sorry, a sixth reason a teenager may attempt or commit suicide is a loss of control.  I stated to Ruth, “Suicide is often an impulsive act.  Stressors from a teenager’s life that can usually handled may become overwhelming for any numbr of reasons.  When stress is too great, control is lost and behaviors may become erratic.  There is confusion of thought, and this confusion, along with feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control, impels action, no matter hwo that action ends.”

Share on FacebookHealing Self Statements Technique
To help Ruth begin to deal with the trauma of the sudden loss of her daughter to suicide, I encouraged her to try the 2-step Healing Self Statements technique.  I have found that the healing self statements technique can help parents grieving the suicide of a son or daughter confront their guilt and progress in healing.

-- Step #1 - The first step in the healing self statements technique involves looking at the teenager’s suicide and the surrounding circumstances in a neutral, non self blaming way.  I stated to Ruth, “The healing self statements technique puts what you did, felt, or thought in the context of the real options that were available to you at the time.”  I asked Ruth to start her self healing statement by using the starter phrases, ‘I feel guilty about…’ and ‘but it wasn’t my fault that…’”

Ruth’s self healing statement was, “I feel guilty when I see Marlene’s room, because it reminds me of how I wasn’t able to help her.  But it wasn’t my fault that Marlene committed suicide.  It’s not my fault that I wasn’t superhuman, all-knowing, or all-powerful.  I did the best I could under very difficult circumstances.”

-- Step #2 - The second step in the healing self statements technique with Ruth was to help her craft a statement that acknowledged the guilt, shame, and other trauma-related feelings she had.  I stated to Ruth, “This second self-statement may help you acknowledge these feelings without letting them take over.” 

Ruth’s acknowledgment healing self statement was, “Even though I should not feel as guilty and ashamed as I do, I can’t erase this guilt and shame.  But I can decide not to let the guilt, shame, anger, and other bad feelings determine what I can do right now.” 

Think of your Ruth.  Would helping him or her craft healing self statements help him or her begin to cope with his or her teenager’s suicide?

On this track, we have discussed six reasons why a teenager may attempt or commit suicide.  We also discussed the Healing Self Statements technique.

On the next track, we will discuss emotional reactions clients may experience following a teenager’s suicide.  At the end of the track, we will discuss the “Identifying Supportive Others” technique for helping clients coping with a loved one’s suicide strengthen their support networks.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 1
What are six reasons a teenager may attempt or commit suicide? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Answer Booklet.

 
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