What to do, say to help a struggling loved one

PHOENIX - ABC15 is taking action after the suicide of a Valley high school student to help you recognize the warning signs before it becomes too late.

Teen Lifeline in Phoenix is a suicide hotline that is staffed with teenage volunteers. They take calls alongside trained counselors to talk to teenagers who are at risk for suicide.

“They feel more comfortable talking with teenagers because we may have just recently been through what they are going through,” said Luis, a teen volunteer for the past three years.

Clinical Director Nikki Kontz explains that sometimes kids may use social media as their identity because they can say things on Twitter or Facebook that they would not be able to say face to face.

Kontz says the biggest mistake people make is assuming that a teenager is just being dramatic rather than sincere in the problems they are having and the comments they make.

Be aware if a person seems to be withdrawn, or their behavior changes and take comments seriously. 

Teen Lifeline suggests reaching out and saying, "Sometimes when people go through the difficulties you're going through, they think suicide is an option. Is this something you're thinking about?

And, whatever the answer, don't pass judgment. The words you use, your tone of voice and your body language can cause this person to either open up or shut down. So, instead of saying, "There's no reason to be upset over this," say, "It seems like you're really hurting. How can I help?"

One of the most important things to keep in mind during a conversation like this is the need to validate the person's feelings. Don't be dismissive. So, instead of saying, "This feeling will go away," say, "What you're going through is painful and it can take time before you feel better."

Teen Lifeline says it can be so easy to tell someone, "Oh, you'll be fine." But, so often, teenagers especially don't think their feelings will change or life will ever get better.

Facebook recently started a suicide alert feature where you can report concerning posts to Facebook and they will send a message to the user with resources. Twitter has a similar feature.

You can call Teen Lifeline at (602) 248-8336 (teen) or 1 (800) 248-8336 (teen) if you are outside of Maricopa County. You can also reach them on their website.

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