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In the last section, we discussed the first four myths the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are teens who talk about suicide will not commit suicide, all suicidal people want to die, if you ask someone about suicide it might give them the idea, and suicide happens without warning.
In this section, we will discuss myths five through eight that the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are, once a person is suicidal he or she is suicidal forever, suicide is inherited, all suicidal people are mentally ill, and suicide occurs exclusively among the poor or the famous.
♦ Myth #5 - Suicidal Forever
I explain to parents that it is possible, and in fact very probable, that a teenager can find himself or herself in a crisis, consider suicide as an alternative, find another solution, and work through the crisis effectively. I encourage parents to recognize that teens who wish to kill themselves are usually suicidal for a limited period of time. The decision to commit suicide can always be redecided. Just because a teen has a suicidal crisis does not mean she or he will always respond to a crisis situation with suicidal behavior.
♦ Myth #6 - Suicide is Inherited
Her grandfather, a great uncle, and an aunt had died by suicide. Becky stated, "My mom says our family is doomed or cursed. She says it’s just our family’s fate. More suicides are going to happen to people I love, and there’s nothing I can do. I mean, it’s probably going to happen to me too, even though I’m in therapy." Becky did not realize that suicide is an individual choice.
Becky had learned from her aunt, a role model, that suicide is an acceptable solution. This, combined with her mother’s belief that the continuation of the trend was inevitable, reduced Becky’s ability to see alternative solutions in her crisis.
♦ Empty Chair Technique - 3 Steps
-- Step 1. In Becky’s case, we used the empty chair to represent Becky’s mother. I seated Becky in the center of the room, facing the empty chair, and asked her to imagine her mother sitting in the chair.
Think of your Becky. Would the empty chair gestalt technique be helpful to her or him?
♦ Myth #7 - All Suicidal People are Mentally Ill
♦ Myth #8 - Suicide Occurs Exclusively Among Poor and Famous
May, whose son Robert had recently attempted suicide, stated "Robert has everything he needs! He’s got a nice roof over his head, new clothes, he never goes hungry. I understand that someone who has to struggle to get the basic necessities might want to give up on life, but Robert is well cared for!" I explained to May that suicide occurs in teens of all socioeconomic statuses.
Certainly an individual may become suicidal due to stress and anxiety because they cannot pay the bills and are hungry. But across socioeconomic statuses, suicidal ideation and behavior are more likely to be the result of relationship problems.
In this section, we have discussed myths five through eight that the families of suicidal teen clients may have about suicide. These four myths are, once a person is suicidal he or she is suicidal forever, suicide is inherited, all suicidal people are mentally ill, and suicide occurs exclusively among the poor or the famous.
In the next section, we will discuss four barriers to communication between adolescents and parents that may compound a teen’s suicidal crisis. These four barriers are labeling, mixed messages, over or underreacting, and nonverbal messages.