News Article Details

LMHC invites public to youth suicide prevention meeting

Fergus Falls Daily Journal - 5/31/2019

May 31-- May 31--According to a report from the Minnesota Department of Health, suicide rates in Minnesota have increased by 28% from 2007 to 2017 and 53% from 1999. Suicide is the eighth leading cause of death in Minnesota and greater Minnesota continues to have a higher rate than the seven-county metro by 20%. Furthermore, the suicide rate among 10- to 24-year-olds in Minnesota is higher than the national average.

As a result, there is a growing concern among mental health providers about the risk of self-harm among young people in this area. Lakeland Mental Health Center would like to invite residents to a public meeting to help better equip parents and the community to prevent youth suicide. The meeting will be held Wednesday, June 5 at 7 p.m. in the Fergus Falls Public Library community room.

"We're particularly concerned, in this instance, in talking about the risks to young people," explains LMHC outpatient therapist Dave Churchill, "and we want to present some information for parents or other responsible adults in the community... about things they can do to watch for signs that a young person might be at risk of attempting to take their own life, and what they can do if they see those signs."

The meeting isn't only limited to adults, though. "Friends are a tremendous resource, too," says Churchill. "If one sees their friends showing some of these signs, you don't have to be their parent to say, 'Hey, something's going on here.'"

Some signs that indicate someone might be considering or planning suicide may seem obvious, such as outright saying, "I'm thinking of killing myself," or, "I'd rather be dead." However, other signs may be mistaken for normal behavior for a child, especially a teenager, such as changes in appearance, stopping self-care, withdrawal from usual activities (giving up sports or hobbies they were previously interested in), giving possessions away to friends, grades dropping, or difficulty getting to school -- "Any one of us might do any one of these things. One of those things happening is not suddenly a tornado siren going off," says Churchill. However, seeing more than one of these signs should cause concern. "You'd typically see more than one sign," he adds, "you'd see several of these things going on for a while." This combination and persistence in these signs is the key to differentiating between normal adolescent changes and a serious issue.

The best way for a parent or friend to offer help is with a timely conversation. If your child comes to you and tells you they want to quit an activity they've been doing for years, such as a sport or band, "That would be a great time for a parent to ask what's going on," says Churchill. "A parent might be inclined to say, 'Don't decide too quick, just think about it and when school starts again we can talk about it,' but really the time when they say they want to quit band would be the time to ask what's going on, ask why they've made that decision."

If it seems a child is going through a difficult time, but not in immediate danger of suicide, the best thing to do is bring them to a mental health professional who can provide resources and recommendations for both the family and the child.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of suicide, there are two possible courses of action. There's a 24-hour mental-health crisis-response line which serves both children and adults in Clay, Otter Tail and Wilkin counties which can be reached at 1-800-223-4512. Second, the emergency room is equipped to help in both mental-health and physical-injury emergencies.

Together, we can work as a community to prevent suicide in the friends and family around us, and the first step is to know what to look for and how to reach out.


(c)2019 the Fergus Falls Daily Journal (Fergus Falls, Minn.)

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