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On the last track, we discussed the four step Hook technique for helping a teen client deal with the anger component of his or her depression. The four steps in the Hook technique are identify the hook, the hook book, identify the need, and fill the need.
On this track, we will discuss the first four myths the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are teens who talk about suicide will not commit suicide, all suicidal people want to die, if you ask someone about suicide it might give them the idea, and suicide happens without warning.
Myth #1 - Teens who Discuss Suicide will not Commit Suicide
Valerie stated, “I felt relieved honestly, that Tom was getting it off his chest. I felt like I didn’t have to worry anymore.” However, two months later, Valerie returned home from work to find Tom attempting to hang himself. Clearly, whenever a teen mentions attempting suicide, it should be taken as an indication that something is wrong, and the threat should be taken seriously. I explained to Valerie, “Even if the teen making the threat isn’t acutely suicidal, there is certainly something very wrong that is making the teen upset and needs attention.”
Following Tom’s suicide attempt, I felt that joint counseling between Tom and Valerie was an important component of helping Tom overcome his crisis. However, I found that initially these sessions took on a gossipy quality. Either Tom or Valerie would speak directly to me, relating aspects of their personal views of the situation as if the other person were not in the room. I decided to implement the Speaking Directly technique. In the speaking directly technique, I ask family members to talk directly to each other.
Family members obviously have to talk to each other when the counselor is not around, and clearly in Tom and Valerie’s case they had not found a workable way around their communication problems on their own. As I coach families in speaking directly to each other, I find that family members often directly experience what is going wrong in their communication process, and may spontaneously evolve ways of doing something about it. Clearly, if Tom states, ‘my mom never thinks I do anything right’ to me, he experiences something very different than if he stated directly to Valerie, “I feel as if I can never please you, mom.”
I also find that by removing myself from a translation role in the conversation, I can better observe how the family relates outside of the therapy session. Although I comment and coach when necessary, I find this position also shifts the sense of responsbvility for problem solving onto the clients, where by necessity it belongs.
Speaking Directly Technique
I coached Tom by asking him to also tell his mother how he felt. Tom stated, “Mom, I really feel frustrated when you don’t let me stay out late. It’s not what I’m used to, and I also think it means you don’t trust me the same way dad does.” Think of your Tom and Valerie. Would trying the speaking directly technique be beneficial in your next joint session?
Myth #2 - All Suicidal People want to Die
Myth #3 - Parents Should Avoid Direct Questioning
As you are well aware, for a parent to bring the topic of suicide into the open will not begin a suicidal thought process for someone who is not in a crisis. I explain to parents that since suicide is so difficult to discuss, it is often the case that a teen who is thinking about suicide has no one to talk to about it. If the parent has the courage to bring up the subject, it may be the beginning of relief from the tension and anxiety that accompany suicidal thoughts.
Myth #4 - Suicide Happens without Warning
This does not mean that teens are not serious about suicide, but it does mean that it is important for the families of teenagers to learn the warning signs and be vigilant. I review the warning signs discussed on Track 2 with all the members of an at-risk teen’s social support network. What warning signs do you review with a suicidal teen client’s loved ones?
On this track, we have discussed the first four myths the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are teens who talk about suicide will not commit suicide, all suicidal people want to die, if you ask someone about suicide it might give them the idea, and suicide happens without warning.
On the next track, we will discuss myths five through eight that the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are, once a person is suicidal he or she is suicidal forever, suicide is inherited, all suicidal people are mentally ill, and suicide occurs exclusively among the poor or the famous.
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