Destructive Stereotypes That Hurt Suicide Prevention

Suicide is officially recognized as the number three cause of death among U.S. adolescents.  Most researchers and mental health treatment specialists claim it can indeed be the number two cause of death among U.S. adolescents.  In my past experience working in a funeral home and serving on our County’s suicide prevention coalition, I have seen many causes of death which could have been listed as suicide but were listed as accidents.

There are many effective and worthwhile prevention strategies.   However, one potentially effective strategy that seems to get overlooked is efforts to remove the stereotype of depression.

The National Institute for Mental Health claims “only about half of adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders are receiving treatment.  This figure shrinks to about one in  five who get treatment for depression.”  Research is very clear about untreated depression often contributing to suicide attempts and completed suicides.  Many parents are unaware of the signs and symptoms of depression or look upon depression as a sign of weakness or a character flaw.  Looking at depression as a character flaw creates a very powerful and destructive stereotype which many times discourages the suffering adolescent from getting much needed professional treatment.

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues in Chattanooga, TN.  He conducts highly rated and interactive workshops about suicide, suicide prevention, basic grief, child grief, non-lethal self destructive behavior, and adolescent grief issues.  During June of 2014,  Dave is conducting workshops in Oklahoma City, OK, Detroit, MI, Mt. Pleasant MI, and Marquette, MI.


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