Part 2 of an article about combating teen suicide. Includes information about the shortage of mental health clinicians, as well as looking at systemic issues which can help combat the rate of teen death. Thanks for listening!
First Part of an article titled Winning When We Do Not Want to Play: Combating Teen Suicide. Discusses signs and symptoms of depression, as well as the current epidemic of teens thinking about or acting on thoughts of suicide. Discusses suicidal ideation and begins to discuss the shortage of mental health therapists. thanks for listening
One of my strengths in this area is that I trust people when they tell me something.
One story, where this strength helped, was during an activity during one of my first courses in graduate school.
We were put into groups, and we were given a problem. We were encouraged to figure out what was wrong, come up with steps to solve it, and try to figure out the origin of the issue.
The story was about a boy who wasn’t listening. His parents would tell him what to do, he didn’t listen.
His teachers would tell him what to do, he still did not listen.
There was a teacher meeting together with the parents to talk about what were the supports in his life that were missing that would help him become more able to listen.
As we were brainstorming, which is a very specific task where all ideas are good, no feedback is given about the ideas, and everyone keeps coming up with ideas for a certain amount of time, I made a suggestion.
‘What if he can’t hear?
What if it isn’t that he isn’t listening, but that he cannot hear what is being said’.
In this instance, that was what was happening,
A child could not hear, and therefore was not listening.
I have talked previously about my trip to France in 1990.
We went to France and Switzerland, and were located for about 2 weeks at a camp near enough to visit Lyon, France; walk into Switzerland and get some chocolate; and to visit the Peugeot Plant.
We were there to get to know each other as people, and were all careful to state to each other that we did not represent each other’s countries.
At the time, Europe was not known as Europe as much as it was known as individual countries. In France you paid with Francs, and in Switzerland it depended on what part of the country you were in to determine both the primary language spoken and I believe the currency.
My friend from Denmark ‘squished her food’. As we watched her, she was quick to say that smooshing all of her food together is typical in Denmark. She had a very specific reason for doing it, but I do not remember what it was.
My friend from Bath in England did not like carbonation in her coke. She was quick to say that this was not a Bath issue, and this did not represent England, but she did not like carbonation and she suggested that we all try it. I have to admit, a flat coke does have its merits.
Two boys from France and one of the leaders Gregoire, who was also from France, were the hardest to understand.
At that time, people in France were resistant to learning English. As they pointed out, they still spoke English better than we spoke French (my sister and me), but they had an accent that was hard for us to understand.
Those two weeks of learning to communicate, learning about each other, and experiencing the local culture, had a very strong affect on me and my approach to learning about and interacting with others.
If my go-to is to believe someone, then all of the problem solving we do, based on the facts as they are presented, are not me trying to prove that they are lying.
My feeling is we all have different interpretations of the truth, so if your truth is that you were hurt, then lets go with that and work to help you feel less pain.
As people in your life tell you things that you know are not factually true (I call them bad reporters, or say they have ‘bad facts’), think about the payoff.
What is it about telling this misrepresentations of the truth or facts that is helping them gain? How are we promoting this by giving a response or feedback?
What can each of us do to help know the difference between ‘this is not your business’, which happens on occasion, and ‘I am misleading you in some intentional way’.
If your strength is pointing out misrepresentations of facts, what population does that work for?
I am best with teens/pre-teens. They tell me something that is not accurate and my response is ‘huh-that seems hard to believe’. I do not disbelieve them, but I do point out the reasons that make their statement hard to believe.
I am second best with building people up who have not treated themselves with the respect that I would like them to.
How do you think about groups of people , whether that be people who speak a different language than you do, people who are developmentally an adolescent, or whether they are people who have lived for many years, who do you connect with?
How can you use that connection to help their connections?
When my kids were about 12, I was in a meeting with a woman with adult children.
She said something wise, which has stuck with me since then and proven true time and time again.
Backing up a little, that day I was at a meeting with providers (which means people who work as professionals with families) discussing how to help encourage a family with a teenager to provide a safe environment where the child could either continue to live or that they could return back to living.
At the time, I was providing Home Based Therapy in Marion County, Indiana.
My role as a therapist was to work with the children and adults in a family to help the adults provide a safe, stable environment to the teens or children which had not been provided one at some point.
The families in this program had experience abused or neglect in some way.
Her words of wisdom went something like this:
‘Toddlers and Teen are just the same. A two year old and a four year old are bursting with the independence that they are trying to obtain. We expect it, and we allow for it.
They are small people, so they can be relatively easy to contain in general.
Teenagers are bigger versions. A 12 year old is like a 2 year old, and a 14 year old is like a 4 year old.
They are much bigger in size, are not nearly as easy to control physically, and are also generally bursting with ideas for their own independence as well’
One of my favorite things about this supervisor was her ability to get her team to provide quality work.
At that time, I was providing direct service (therapy) for 18 months, which was a break from supervising staff. I have supervised staff for the majority of my career, so this experience allowed me to learn from her a little differently than if we were peers.
She supervised her staff in a way which encouraged reliability, communication, and caring for the families they worked with.
She supervised people who worked for the Department of Child Services, which is a very difficult role to be in.
We know that anyone who has gone through their adolescent years, or early twenties, or whenever we ‘broke’ away from our parents in some ways, that it is part of adolescence.
Adolescents have the job of establishing independence. They are more interesting in their peers and their friends, developmentally. Their parents are trying to advise and guide them to making safe decisions.
One of the norms that i have noticed changing a bit in the last few years is about perceived safety and how do we deal with teens and those computers in their hands.
When I was a teen, back in the 80’s, I had some pretty emphatic boundaries. My parents were stricter than many of my friends’ parents in some ways, so if I went on a date in high school we stayed in Tipton.
Keeping my location local helped my parents with a sense of safety, while also extremely limiting our movie and dinner options.
We had one movie theatre with one screen, and a few places to eat but not many of them involved sitting down and ordering.
We were beginning to learn about typing on computers at school, but personal computers would come out a few years later.
How does this apply to you?
Think about how you parent your child, particularly if they are a teen.
I was able to hear Dawn Crossman speak on Saturday at an event called ‘SHIFT’, which was put on by the Peyton Reikoff Foundation.
She discussed some things about parenting intense teens that I have found in my experiences as well.
As teens work to establish that sense of self and figure out who they are, we need to protect them when we can and allow some mistakes, just like we do with our 2 and 4 year olds.
If a two year old is still struggling to walk well, we don’t tell them to stop walking.
We encourage them to figure out how to walk better through those falls where they plop down. I love to watch early walkers run, and just lead with those giant heads.
The same is true for 12 year olds and 14 year olds.
Let them make mistakes they can learn from, while staying aware of their own tendency to, as my husband coined ‘run with the bad ideas’.
He was talking with my son at dinner one night at during those pre-teens years and mentioned ‘you get a ‘bad’ idea, you think it is good, and then you run with it. You just run faster and faster with the idea’.
I tend to avoid using the terms good and bad, but think about this how it relates to you.
My son loves people, loves to have fun, and loves to spend time with friends. We worked, in high school, to encourage him to complete his home work at a pace possibly slower than 100 mph, but we did not monitor it.
Having academically strong children comes with its own sets of perks and balances, and for us one reality was that we never monitored their homework closely.
We did look at their power school, or the school website where grades were listed, and my guess is this conversation either had something to do with hanging out with friends longer than allowed him to have sleep, or it had something to do with turning in an assignment he had missed.
Either way, the example was used that day, and for years to come. Eventually it got shortened to ‘just keep running! Keep running with those ideas’, with a smile and some arm motions imitating running.
As we parent our children, we want to establish a sense of trust when we can.
We want to hold our children, pre-teens, and teens accountable to help motivate them to make decisions that will ultimately help them grow into accountable adults who are productive citizens.
Making it work:
Think about who you want to motivate, who might be acting like a temper tantruming toddler.
How do you encourage them, as they are demonstrating that independence so willfully, to continue to be persistent in ways that help them and to give-in in ways that are holding them back?
I encourage you to think of a way to use that accountability and knowledge of their developmental age as you make rules, consequences, and motivate those in your care.
I hope you enjoy your weekend! Basketball is everywhere if you enjoy watching it.
I really enjoy building relationships where staff who are working begin to be able to do more and more on their own.
I also enjoy meeting with staff for what I usually call individual supervision where we (the verb) ‘staff’, which means discussing the people they are working with and working to improve the skills the employee has, while at the same time I hear their perspectives on things that are going well and ideas they have to help the families make change to reduce the stresses in their own lives.
A few years ago, I had what I commonly refer to as ‘a really strong team’.
We were a group who enjoyed each other, which her its own perks and drawbacks, but for this team, it was a perk.
We had a group staff meeting each month.
At that staff meeting, I pre-printed an agenda which had pertinent information on it, such as processes that were changing or being updated, upcoming events where they had the opportunity to work at, and we staffed clients.
One of my staff referred to the staff meetings as a gathering where all of the kids come home.
For this group, we covered 4 counties in Indiana. One of the counties, Hamilton, has a huge number of people living in it, and 7 public school districts in it. Four of those are among the highest populated schools in the state, and one of them is among one of the most rural areas of the state where the closest grocery store is a 15 minute drive from the center of town.
The other 3 counties were very individualized as well. Madison County has one of the highest number of people in poverty and using illegal/non-prescribed drugs both in the state and nationwide.
Hancock is what is commonly referred to as a ‘bedroom’ community, with 4 school systems of its own ranging from just outside of Indianapolis (Marion County) to quite rural communities as well.
The final county in our area, where I was brought up, is Tipton. Tipton is historically a farm community with some of the richest soil in the nation where many of us who grew up there in the 80’s detassled corn.
So on these staff meetings, the 6 staff who served the 4 counties, our administrative assistant, and our safe sleep coordinator gathered with me to discuss upcoming events, things going well, and things to work on.
Recently, one of my staff from that time period posted a picture where she and her co-worker dressed as our male co-worker in his football jerseys.
Anytime you have a group that is cohesive and works well together, I think it is important to look back at what went well to try to re-create it.
For this group, I am listing below some of our strengths and areas that creative a positive work environment:
1. The job in and of itself is a hopeful job that allowed us to help people. We worked in prevention, which allowed us to work with families on a voluntary basis.
2. There was a whole lot of trust.
Three of the staff primarily worked in Madison County, and they developed a very close friendship with each other. They had a group chat where they were able to bounce ideas off of each other as they worked with some families in some extreme poverty.
3. Availability of office space.Three of the 4 counties had offices in them, which allowed the workers to have a place to land and decompress. The most isolated person was definitely based out of our Hancock County office, which was two rooms in a building with several other individual offices in there. This allowed her to get to know the services in the community on a closer level as she spent time in her office.
4. Each person who worked in the community cared about their community. Tipton, having about 16,000 people in the county and about 5,000 people who live in the town of Tipton, was always the hardest to hire for. Since I grew up, went to high school, and have worked in the community for most of my professional career I was able to help that along.
Each of the other counties had staff who worked in them who either lived in or near the community, which helped with the driving around the county and with their own sense of community.
5 Those staff meetings we loved? We ate at them. We started with having a bagel breakfast at our 10:00 meeting, but eventually switched to an 11-1 meeting time with lunch included and paid for by the agency to allow us to eat lunch. This allowed the staff to see clients prior to the meeting if they wanted, and it also gave us some casual, get your food time to discuss some of the ‘softer’ skills of their work.
6. It was a great team with great staff. I had hired, with the help of the VP above me, well and had a group that was skilled in many areas and helped each other.
The take-away from this article is this: think about how can you work well together with your team.
What can you do, that you have control of, to improve your work environment?
As in all situations, things evolve and change, and people who work in entry level positions who are pretty skilled in their role sometimes want to move up or move on.
How can you help staff who are in a place where they are ready for more challenges incorporate those new challenges or ideas into their role or be able to incorporate those skills into their next role?
As an employee, what can you do, in your role, to improve morale with your own behavior?
Recapping, my success story is not about one employee. It is about a work environment based on trust, workability, and good humor.
I hope you find some fun in your tasks today! It is sunny here, which always starts my day off a little better.