Mental health is crucial to our physical health and many times people suffer excessively feeling isolated and alone in their struggles. In the last couple of years, the number of patients struggling with their mental health or the mental health of a family member has grown significantly. Worse, the number of youth struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts seems to be growing exponentially with more families feeling lost and alone trying to support their loved ones.
Suicide is the second most common cause of death among people ages 10-24. From 1990-2015 teen suicide rates were up 15% but from 2020-2021 they went up again by more than 50% and continued to increase in 2022 and 2023. Self-harm has increased as well. We hope that by bringing awareness to this disturbing trend and offering support to the community, we can help change this pattern.
We will be offering a support group for family members of those struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts—primarily parents and caregivers (other family members may be allowed on a case-by-case basis). This group will meet on Tuesdays at 6 pm at Raja Wellness Elizabethtown.
I asked our psychotherapist, Brian Miller, to offer some suggestions for family members:
Suicide is a very complex issue to try to manage and can be filled with emotions. The first thing that most people need to understand is that it is alright not to know what to do or how to respond to the situation. It takes mental health professionals time to understand how complex and nuanced it is and to be comfortable talking with clients about the issue. There are many levels of suicidal behaviors including passive, active, and self-harm i.e. cutting or burning. Passive is thoughts that you would be better off dead or “not here anymore” and active is making a plan and beginning to work out how to carry out that plan.
The key is communication, being open to talking about this with your loved one, and being ready to hear what they have to say—without judgment. If someone in your life makes suicidal statements or engages in self-harming behaviors it is important to talk about it openly and honestly, ignoring it will not make it go away. Do not be afraid to ask them if they are feeling suicidal or are having suicidal thoughts, you will not be placing those thoughts in their mind— they are probably there already.
The next step is to have them screened for suicidality by a professional as there are many levels of self-harm and there are interventions that can be started to manage the issue. There are many resources for people to access 24 hours a day for the risk of suicide including 988 hotlines and others and this can lead to local resources that can help. You can also reach out to Raja Wellness and I can assist with what steps can be taken next. Parenting is not easy and often you feel isolated and alone—but remember you are not and there are people that want to help.
By: Brian Miller, LCSW