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Parents and suicide prevention experts spreading the message of prevention to parents

Teen suicides
Posted at 5:23 PM, Sep 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-18 07:21:11-04

PHOENIX — Three teenage suicides in the East Valley during the declared 'Suicide Prevention Month' in Arizona has left many parents and experts spreading the message of prevention to other parents.

"When I speak to parents who have lost their children, typically there's a runway and then the act of, we have to catch them on the runway," said Katey McPherson, a suicide prevention expert who works closely with families affected by this issue.

Two of the most recent suicides includes Maggie Jones of Skyline High School and Anthony Neff of Desert Ridge High School. The parents of Anthony Neff and Maggie Jones have given ABC15 the approval to share their kids' story with the hope of preventing yet another suicide.

"I appreciate what you are doing, and pray your article somehow touches a young person’s life in such a distinct way to prevent them from making the same type of choice," said Debbie Neff in an email to ABC15.

Maggie Jones, just 17 years old, was described by her mother as a “beautiful young woman who loved to help others". On September 4, after messaging on social media about her pain, Maggie decided to end her life.

"That's what the suicidal brain is looking for, is somebody to intervene," said McPherson. "This is preventable. We have to be paying attention to the run way of what's leading up to the crisis."

On a weekly basis, Shivani is that someone who intervenes. Shivani is a teen counselor at Teen Lifeline. We have kept her last name out of this story for privacy reasons.

"I feel really grateful that our callers trust us enough to open up to us," said Shivani.

Last year, over 23,000 calls came into Teen Lifeline from teenagers and even younger kids searching for help.

"Personally, I would say that my youngest caller has been 8," says Shivani.

Recently, the Mitch Warnock Law was enacted by Governor Ducey. It works to expand suicide awareness and prevention training in public schools.

Katey McPherson admits that the adult awareness about teen suicide is high but the strategies for kids to take when they are feeling suicidal are still missing.

"And then we try to make them feel better by saying 'just walk away, or you'll be okay' ...dismiss, dismiss, dismiss, and it only keeps your kids stuck in the yuck," she added.

On Tuesday, Teen Lifeline set out thousands of messages written by high school students, hoping to send the message of suicide prevention. The Chains of Hope event was, more than anything, ceremonious and indicative of the struggles kids face today.

Dozens of high schools participate, making the messages which are then linked together to make one big chain.

Teen Life hopes the chain eventually reaches those who are in pain.

"The biggest thing for me is knowing that that person is just like me and that they had a lot of problems in their life and that they don't really want to die they just want the pain to stop," said Shivani.
As for parents, McPherson says your child's social media account will sometimes tell a parent more about how that child is feeling than they will.

"Use Snapchat for good, use Instagram for good, use the messaging and the medium to reach them because that's where they are spending 24 hours of their life, literally," she added.

She recommends that parents attend workshops and community forums on how to connect with their children, and often many will ask her how that connection should be made.

On Wednesday, an informational session called "Change Stress to Success" is being held at Shepherd Junior High School in Mesa in the auditorium. The event is free for any parent to attend.

If you know anyone who might be in need of help with suicidal thoughts, you can call 602-248-8336 or text HOME to 741741.

Teen Lifeline works specifically with teens who feel they are in need of help with suicidal thoughts. Teens can call Teen Lifeline at 602-248-8336, 24 hours a day.