Question # 8: “I have read claims that some adolescents on medication to treat depression can actually be a factor or a cause in some suicides. Is medication dangerous?”

I have seen medication as a positive component of treatment when a depressed adolescent who was diagnosed by either a clinical psychologist or psychiatrist  I don’t have enough information to refute these reports, but medication has been critically important for the treatment for many depressed teens I have worked with.  Medication, however, needs to be closely monitored by caretakers, and parents/guardians of the depressed teen.  I do want to emphatically state however, medication is only ONE component of treatment.  Counseling and therapy along with dietary considerations and exercise are also of critical importance in helping the teen get better.

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He conducts a highly rated and interactive workshop on suicide prevention and intervention.  His upcoming presentations are April 25th in VanBuren County, Michigan and April 29th Alma Public Schools.  He has presentations scheduled in Oklahoma City,OK, Caseville, Michigan, Marquette, Michigan,and North Little Rock, AR this summer.  He can be reached at


Question #7 – “Can I scare my kids out of suicidal thoughts?

I have had several parents tell me that they told their child that they would provide the means for them if they had suicidal thoughts.  They are thinking they can scare the child/adolescent out of this thinking.  Although some parents have been successful in this type of reverse psychology I truly believe this to be a very bad idea.  Think about this.  You are a person who is severely depressed and you share your feelings with a person close to you and who you think will help.  He says back to you “just go and kill yourself” thinking that this will bring you back to your senses.  Instead of scaring you out of the suicidal episode, he just convinced you that “I am right.  Nobody does care.”  I tell these parents to think about the remorse and guilt you would feel if your depressed son or daughter took your advice.

My battle cry is in this case “reverse psychology is a bad and potentially devastating idea for both the person in crisis and the one who gave this “advice.”

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He has been published several times in professional journals.  Dave conducts a highly rated and interactive suicide prevention education workshop for anyone interested in preventing this mounting epidemic in the U.S.  He will be in Van Buren County, Michigan April 25th and the Alma Public Schools on April 29th.  He can be reached at

The 6th Most Frequently Asked Question About Suicide from Parents I Speak To:

“How is grief from suicide different than grief from death of other causes?”

Suicide is a sudden death which many times can induce trauma and traumatic reactions which can lead to post traumatic stress disorder.  It is in most cases a more violent death.  This cause of death tends to produce large doses of guilt with the family and friends of the deceased.  I call it the “I could of should of would of” syndrome.  As the reality of the cause of death sinks in feelings of rejection and anger typically occur with family and friends.  “How could he have hurt me like this?”  “Why did he abandon me?”  “He thought so little of me he left me with this horrible pain?”  These issues compound the grief process.

Actually, I sincerely believe from my experience working with suicidal youth, that the person who dies of suicide rarely intends to hurt anyone but himself.  Suicide is about pain.  The person who is suicidal seems to be unable to focus on who he may hurt.  All he seems to be able to focus on is his pain and getting rid of the pain.  If you have a loved one who has died of suicide, He/She did not intend to hurt you.  It is NOT your fault.  My prayers are with you.

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He conducts a highly rated and interactive suicide prevention workshop for anyone interested in helping to prevent suicide.  His next engagements are April 25th at the VanBuren Technology Center in Lawrence, Michigan.  He also will be at the Alma Public Schools on April 29th.  You can contact him at  Please visit his website  

“Isn’t depression a result of a character flaw? Maybe if the person made better decisions they wouldn’t be depressed?”

Although I agree that bad decisions have negative consequences and depression may be one of them, it is well documented that depression is a medical condition caused by an imbalance of brain chemistry.  Since experts claim that brain chemistry is the actual determinant of a person’s behavior, there is a high chance that the chemical imbalance may be the cause the bad decisions made by the depressed person.  When we look at depression as a medical condition instead of a character flaw, we have the proper attitude in dealing with the depressed individual.  Our attitude should be “it is not what is wrong with this person, but what has happened to him/her.”  The individual may be depressed, but he/she is still alert to our attitude.  A positive attitude will be of paramount importance as we interact with the individual.

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth issues. He presents a highly rated and interactive workshop on suicide prevention education.  He is presenting on Friday, March 21st at the Michigan Association of Middle School Educators State Conference.  He can be reached at

The 4The Most Frequently Asked Question About Suicide from parents of Adolescents

Continuing on in this series of 10 blogs, dealing with the 10 most frequently asked questions to me by adolescent parents, I find the 4th very frustrating to me.  The question is “There are so many adolescent suicides in our Country.  What is wrong with today’s kids?” 

I first start out by saying you are ASKING THE WRONG QUESTION.  It is not what is wrong with today’s kids, it is what is wrong with our society.  The question we need to ask is “Why would a person with so much life to live consider suicide as an option?”   Please don’t lay the blame for the increase in adolescent suicides on them.  Experts claim that in excess of 90% of these tragedies are a result of depression or other form of mental illness.  This means that these adolescents are suffering from medical conditions, not character flaws.  

Asking “What is wrong with today’s kids” is the wrong attitude.  People with this attitude will most probably do more harm than good in working with or relating to an adolescent in suicidal crisis.  In most cases, I find that it isn’t really what is wrong with these adolescents, it is what has happened to them.  I have found that many have had a past unresolved trauma experience, or are suffering from medical conditions such as depression (clinical and situational for the most part) or another form of mental illness.  

As a caring society, we need to listen to their cry for help and learn how to respond in a caring and appropriate manner.

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He conducts highly rated and interactive seminars and workshops in suicide prevention and other grief related and self injury issues.  His next workshop is in Fayetteville, Arkansas on March 7th, on adolescents cutting and non-lethal self injury.  On March 14th he is in Chattanooga, TN conducting a “Confronting Death in the School Family” workshop.  He can be reached at  Please visit his website 

The 3rd most frequent question parents of children and adolescents ask me

“If I am talking to a person who seems to be troubled and possibly suicidal, should I come right out and ask him if he is thinking about suicide?

YES!  In my experiences, whenever I asked a person if he was considering suicide, I sensed a great sigh of relief in the person.  It was like they were saying “FINALLY somebody is willing to validate how I feel and willing to talk to me about this.”  Even when I prefaced the question with “You know, I can’t keep this confidential if you say yes,” it still did not stop them from telling me.

When the person in crisis acknowledges his feelings, ask a few more questions such as:

1)What is going on? – And listen, listen, listen, non-judgmentally.  Don’t debate or argue with the person.  He is in deep emotional pain and many times the obvious or logical thought process is difficult for this person. 

2) Where does it hurt? – The person in crisis most often has constant physical as well as emotional manifestations of pain.  I compare this to blowing up a balloon to the point where it will burst.  “Letting out some of the air” lessens the pain and many times helps the person in crisis see his issues a bit more clearly.

3) What can we do to help? – Using the word “we,” the person in crisis is enlisted to help himself as well as receiving help from friends such as you and professional mental health practitioners.

A wise person once stated “a person in suicidal crisis does not want to die, he just wants his pain to stop. 

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He conducts a highly rated and interactive Suicide Prevention Education Workshop for anyone interested and willing to make a positive impact on the fastest growing killer of our youth.  He can be reached at  You can visit his website at

Question #2″Won’t I put ideas into kids’ heads by talking about suicide?”

The National Association of Suicidology adopted a statement in a previous national conference that “Suicide is a national health problem.  The number one preventative measure is to TALK ABOUT IT.”  I find it interesting they didn’t say prozac, zoloft or any other medication for depression, although they can be an important part of treatment.  This association consists mostly of health care professionals. In my experience in working with depressed teens I have discovered that the willingness to address the issue with them is appreciated.  I sense a feeling of relief in he teen.  It is almost like he or she is saying “finally, someone is willing to talk to me about what I am considering.”  In this day and age, teens are under tremendous pressure which comes at them for many angles.  They appreciate caring adults who are willing to help them without judgment, tackle the tough issues of life, and suicide is obviously one of these issues. 

Dave Opalewski is the author of “Answering the Cry for Help” published by The National Center for Youth Issues.  He presently a highly interactive and highly rated one day suicide prevention workshop.  This workshop is for all educators and youth caretakers.  His next workshop is February 26, 2014 in Duplin County, NC.  He can be reached at  Also, you are welcome to visit his website