Reaching out to children who are suicidal is a large task, but someone has to do it, so why not YOU.
Those who aren’t skilled in this area are at a loss for words and interactive strategies. When caught in this stage, we’re left having to think quickly, but cautiously.
We must first learn what suicidal stage the person may be in prior to determining the questioning stage (if there is time).
If there IS time, we must also learn how to question a child who has suicidal intentions.
I am not sure if asking directly about suicidal attempts is always good for ALL children and/or situations, but getting right to the point may “be a good call” for some children depending on where they are within this phase. If so, just “go for it” and ask the question – “Are you thinking about suicide?”
If you need a more subtle “walking on egg shell” attempt, you may try these questions/phrases:
- I’ve noticed you don’t talk a lot here lately. What’s going on? What’s on your mind?
- I’ve noticed you aren’t eating your food like you use to. How are you feeling?
- I’ve noticed you aren’t hanging out with your friends here lately. What’s going on? How is …. doing? (Ask questions about each friend and your child’s relationship with each).
- I’ve noticed you aren’t going outside to play. Has anything happened we need to talk about?
- What happened to your beautiful smile, I haven’t seen it lately?
- Tell me. Is there something on your mind?
- How are things going with…….? (Select a recent topic you are aware of) Is there something I need to know? How can I help you with this issue?
- I know about ………. (if you need to let your child realize you found out about something) Let’s talk about it, okay?
- Do you feel sometimes there isn’t much hope?
- Do you feel like giving up, or hurting yourself?
- Have you ever done something so embarrassing you felt like you wanted to kill yourself? We can get through it because nothing is that bad, trust me.
- Do you ever feel like you’ve made a mistake that got you so angry you want to give up? Let’s talk about it.
- Do you ever think about what life would be like for your family, siblings, if you weren’t around? Let’s talk about how important you are to the family.
- Have you ever gone to bed thinking you don’t ever want to wake up?
Note: Always let your child realize the important role they play in your life and the life of your family.
When children are suicidal, there are usually signs, however subtle. The child is very sad and more than likely wants your attention. Children want to know their self-worth. Let us hear their cry.
Illustration: Compliments of Kelly A. Vasquez
7th Grade Performing Arts Students, 12/2014
Art Piece Title: Tear Drops
Suicide appears to be on the rise these days, so it would behoove us to be on alert for possible warning signs.
Remember to remain close to your child as you guide them through life’s journey. There will be times of insecurity as they attempt to “find” themselves and their “plight” in life.
Ask your child about his/her day at school, church, social gatherings
Who are their friends? What sort of relationship do they have with friends? Do they have similar interests with friends? Are their friends truly their friends?
Build your child’s self-worth, Use Self-fulfilling Prophecy techniques and Affirmation Skills early and often.
Peer Pressure is a “monster” during Teen and Adolescent years!
List of Subtle warning signs:
Failing grades, “class clown” missing class, skipping school
Sadness more often than not
Sense of hopelessness
Activity level appears sluggish
Change in sleeping habits
Disappearing from family gatherings back to bedroom, or sudden withdrawals
Moodiness – outbursts, temper tantrums, edginess
Possible use of drugs, alcohol
Note: Even at the subtle level, do not take lightly – Talk to your child
List of Serious warning signs:
Any previous suicidal attempts
Any drugs in room, restroom left behind by child
Is child asking for drugs to be used for pain such as headache?
Any weapons, rope, other tools seen around home or bedroom
Observance of child giving away sentimental items
Was child making goals at one time, but now does not?
Any joking around about taking his/her own life (this may be to test you)
Any use of suicidal words in journals, tweets, Facebook, other social networks?
Note: Take immediate action
Illustration Compliments of: Kelly A. Vasquez, 7th Grade Performing Arts Student
Art Piece Titled: Insecure Spirits is propped on an easel
Description: The child is peering up at the evil spirits yelling out at him/her with a tear droplet falling.
Date: December 24, 2014
Suicide: Procedures that May Help Parents Stop It!
The news of this tragedy has made our family realize the importance of taking notice, reaching out and taking the extra time with youngsters in our family. My goal is to also help you avoid a tragedy such as this one.
It has hit me that perhaps it would be a great idea to post series of helpful tactics and strategies that might just help families (especially parents) avoid what my family and I are currently experiencing (insurmountable sadness), so I’m offering a few blog series on this very topic – SUICIDE PREVENTION.
I’ll begin this series with a set of PROCEDURES
The first thing a parent would want to do is, of course, protect the student. If parents are aware that a child is talking about suicide, they must contact a mental health professional, especially if the child is showing signs of suicidal tendencies or behaviors, or using threatening remarks.
- Parents should closely monitor and supervise the child until he/she can actually go to, or meet with the mental health professional.
- Parents will want to remain calm as they speak to their child about what’s troubling them.
- Parents will want to contact the school (teachers, counselors, administrators) in an effort to seek/gather more information about their child. Ask questions such as:
Description of their child’s behaviors
Were there any changes in the child’s behavior?
Any talk of suicide comments, gestures, or acts?
- Parents should also be aware of anything they’ve notice about their child and jot these notes down. This includes behaviors at home, around others (family members: cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents).
- Does the child have close friends? If so, find out if the other child’s parents would mind if you talked to their child in an attempt to determine what they noticed, or have been told.
- Parents will want to think about family changes such as stressors (new marriages, divorces, financial difficulties – just to name a few).
- Parents will want to reexamine health and mental health history of their child, if any.
- Parents will want to speak to mental health professional and outline levels of response plan
Note: These procedures are outlined for parents, but can be tailored for school officials or anyone needing this information. There are so many variables to consider and a number of actions that can be considered.
Photo Complimentary of Maya Steamer:
Maya is a 9th grade student at Victory Early College. Her art piece is titled: “It Hurts” Maya says this: “My art is of a girl who gets bullied and talked about. She has recently been beaten up and wants to spread awareness about bullying. It hurts!”
Maya submitted her art work to represent Crime Stoppers in the Community. She is one of the 2014 Art Contest Winners: Maya’s work was completed beautifully with oil pastels, and will be displayed at Crime Stoppers.
Carving Off the Excess Baggage
As we journey through life, we meet several people who we feel match our personalities. We believe we have things in common, whether it’s our children, recreational events, socio-economic statuses, or you can fill in the blank, so the relationship starts out great. As time moves on however, we learn we are exact opposites, and/or perhaps do not enjoy each other’s company as previously thought (or hoped).
If we find ourselves in situations like the one explained, it’s okay to let go and move on. We do not have to load ourselves down with negative baggage that doesn’t help us improve our lives, or remain in relationships that tear up down mentally and physically.
Let me share three examples with you:
Example 1: I had a friend who constantly took over the conversation. She was a non-stop chatter box who knew everything (actually she is highly intelligent), and often wanted to give advice (who doesn’t like receiving advice?), but the problem is she lacked the skill of listening, and constantly said, “You should do this…, or have you thought about doing this…? I mean, I don’t mind an occasional word of advice, but each and every conversation no matter what the topic at-hand was she did this.
This acquaintance appeared to be highly skilled at not letting me in on our conversations. She actually said, “Ummm” to tie her words over when thoughts escaped her, so I sat most of the time not being able to comment on the topic, and this led to me constantly forgetting any thoughts I felt needing to be interjected. This girl totally monopolized the entire conversation. No kidding.
Example 2: There were other times she’d begin a conversation like this, “You may not realize this …” or “You may not have heard of this before, but….”
One time I couldn’t take it any longer and finally asked her if she realized this habit. I told her in a kind way that doing this wasn’t kosher and it sounds as if she doesn’t believe anyone else realizes or could have experienced all the wonderful things she’s experienced in her life.
Well, her actions really “got on my nerves” so finally I spoke up and said, “You know, it takes two people sharing in a conversation. If I’m just listening to you, this really isn’t a conversation, but one-sided talk.” Of course she disagreed with me, but I can tell you that I actually clocked her one time.
Example 3: Whenever I tried to interject, or get my thoughts into the conversation, this acquaintance begin to speak loudly and drown my voice out.
Example 4: Another annoying habit my friend had was calling my cell phone leaving a message, but talking until the phone timed out, or beeped. Yes, she used up all the playing time leaving long, drawn-out and detailed messages. I can see this happening on occasion, but she did this every single time I wasn’t able to take the call. Do you know the type?
What I surmised after speaking to this acquaintance each time was a nagging headache. She was always right and always had to offer me ways to do things differently or what she felt was a much better way of handling things.
This is how I chose to handle the situation:
I believe it is not only fair, but right to share your thoughts and feelings about problematic issues with your friend(s). Sharing will either make, or break the relationship, and TRUE friends share the good and bad, right?
The sad part is this, my friend wasn’t willing to listen and/or make changes for the betterment of our continued friendship, so I did what I needed to do for ME. I ended our friendship on this level. She may be better as an occasional acquaintance then a close friend.
I must admit, I have never had to end a friendship in this manner. It was very uncomfortable, but very much needed and a long time coming, since I dealt with this for over 4.5 years.
It’s okay to move on. If someone in your inner circle is constantly negative or annoying and you’re left feeling stressed out with a headache after talking to them, it can’t be a healthy relationship for either of you.
Have you experienced similar situations? If so, how did you handle it?
Are Biracial Children Damaged?
by Cherry Vasquez, Ph.D.
Approximately seven years ago, I was engaged in, what I thought was a friendly conversation with a group of ladies at my work. As mothers, we often talked about daily activities our children were engaged in. Our conversations were personal, easy stress relievers, and generally ended with much laughter among the group.
When I ended my “story for the day” on the subject of my daughter’s latest activity, one of the ladies turned and said, “Well, she’s going to have psychological problems anyway.”
I looked at her, startled, and asked what she meant by that. “Well, she’s biracial,” she continued,” and all biracial children end up with psychological problems.”
This woman was the first person who’d ever made such an asinine statement to me, but unfortunately not the last. What she claimed never crossed my mind. Why would it?
My daughter is a charming, well-rounded, culturally balanced, beautiful biracial girl who excels academically, and–I might add she’s one very fine pianist. She has friends of all races and heritages, and she loves people. In fact, whenever someone refers to my daughter as one ethnic group over another, she’ll quickly inform she’s neither one over the other, but both (African-American and Hispanic), thus bi-racial. She loves all of who she is, and is very proud of both her heritages.
I must admit, I have heard of and read stories about biracial children and adults alleging they’ve encountered problems fitting into groups, but I truly hadn’t spent any time at all pondering over this subject where my own child is concerned. Don’t get me wrong, I did my homework as a parent; I made sure to do my part to balance knowledge of both heritages and pointedly built her character, self-esteem and self-worth. This is mainly because self-esteem challenges, good or bad, have to do with any parenting and environmental situations, and not based on one’s racial make-up.
Because I happen to be an African-American mother of a biracial child whose father is Hispanic, I felt if there are those who declare just because a child is biracial they will automatically have psychological problems; I needed to set a platform about diversity and bullying in motion.
The truth of the matter is, children have it hard these days no matter what their ethnic background. Psychological problems stem from a child’s own lack of self-worth, not from the color of the child’s skin. If anything, the problem stems from adults’ bigotry and small-mindedness. In twenty-first century America, there is no room for biases and division.
Multicultural education is the key to diversity and an important factor for decreasing bullying behaviors. We need to stop making assumptions about children based on what they look like and allow them the chance they deserve to grow into healthy, well-adjusted individuals.
Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D. is the owner of Books That Sow: Strength, Character & Diversity, DBA. Her collection of books builds character, self-worth, and empowers all children, whether monoculture, biracial of multiracial. Visit her website for more information: http://www.BooksThatSow.com. We are proud to have her on Project RACE’s Advisory Board.
It makes my heart glad realizing students not only accomplish and master targeted curricular goals and objectives, but when students take time reaching out to teachers/professors thanking them for marked services, it makes me realize my work has value, and my students are achieving expected standards.
Below, I’m sharing a letter received from one of my graduate level students who’s aspiring to become a public school administrator. This student was enrolled in “The Classroom Teacher as a Researcher” course I taught during summer 2014.
This notice came by way of an email, but I certainly had not expected it. It was indeed a lovely surprise.
Yes, the bible is right!
I Peter 2:18-25 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. 19 For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. 21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.
If we have faith, I certainly realize we can’t be double-minded and/or take matters into our own hands, but we must defend ourselves just long as we keep things in perspective, act calm and humble ourselves.
If, however, you find yourselves having to defend what is just and right, and if you have been unjustly portrayed as someone else, or lied upon, you may want to follow these steps:
- Join a Union (you may need to speak to the legal team of your organization)
- Let your boss realize you feel harassed. By doing so, they may “back off” for fear they are “getting in over their heads”
- Whenever you meet with your boss behind closed doors, you may want to take a witness with you. Most people will not want any part of being your witness, but ensure them they do not have to say a word
- If you cannot take a witness, take a tape recorder with you. Follow the law of your state if you choose to do this, however. In Texas, all one has to do is announce and/or alert the other party they are being taped. It isn’t wise to record someone without their knowledge.
- Keep a journal, log, or notebook of all interventions, or conversations with your boss
- Invest in dividers/tabs for your notebook. Have sections for the following: verbal interactions emails, and any written correspondences. Note dates, times, settings and any witnesses.
- Keep two sets of your journal, log or notebook. The one kept at work may suddenly come up missing
- Keep any and all records. You’d be surprised how emails will end up supporting you. NEVER get anything via verbal correspondence. Your boss will deny telling you anything.
- Never share your thoughts, and/or actions with ANYONE. You’d be surprised who your friends are NOT during times like these.
- Smile lots. Never let your boss realize they’re making you feel uncomfortable
- Never insubordinate yourself.
- Follow all rules and remain on your P’s and Q’s – Dot your I’s and cross your T’s. Your boss will look for ANYTHING to “ruffle your feathers” and cause you to lose your job.
- Pray lots! God’s intervention is AWESOME!
Note: Your boss will do a great job of alienating you, so be prepared for becoming a loner. Even those who feel your boss is wrong will not want to associate with you for fear the same thing may happen to them – Sad, but true.
Note: Your boss is human and will fall short at times. When he/she keeps copies of their mishaps, make a copy of it and/or obtain (whatever it is) for your records.
At this point, your boss will be happy to “back off.” Your boss must treat, and give you the same respect as the other team members in your department. For example: If they give one team member flex time, you must be given flex time.
As our children journey back to school this year, let us not forget to give them a huge hug while assuring them we are their best advocates, and spokespersons just long as they follow school rules, respect themselves and others, and follow the laws of the land.
I believe in my heart of hearts if we instill in our children there are rules to be followed, perhaps our children can and will avoid adverse issues unawares.
Our children must also learn empathy and care for one another. They must learn to work hard for the things they need, and desire. If so, they will surely become proud of themselves and their goods.
When our children are not with us, but in the trusting hands of school officials, we must allow our children to soar while becoming responsible citizens in our society who will one day be charged with making decisions in our stead.
Remind our children to choose their company wisely, not become followers but leaders. Let us remind them if it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t right. Tell our children it is okay to move themselves out, or away from situations that aren’t good for their well-being.
When peer pressure lurks their way, it is okay to stand tall and say “no.”
Tell children to “keep their heads to the grind” meaning – listen to your teachers, get organized and remain that way. Remain studious, ask questions and get their assignments completed in timely fashions.
Let us give our children a “pep talk” today and throughout the school year, and let us pray for their safety, strength, and positive growth in right directions.
Cherrye S. Vasquez, Ph.D.
Books That Sow: Strength, Character & Diversity, DBA