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Teen suicide risk rises as school year comes to a close, experts say

Posted at 7:54 AM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 10:54:54-04

PHOENIX — While many families are excitedly planning summer vacations, a lot of kids are dreading the end of the school year. Teen Lifeline says the month of May is when the risk of suicide goes up and they see calls for help spike 10 percent.

Lifeline Clinical Director Nikki Kontz says between spring break and the end of the school year, there are big stressors at school, like finals, state testing, college acceptance letters and planning for prom. Add that to more pressure at home to score well and stay on top of family duties and it's enough to make some feel overwhelmed.

There are also students who would rather be at school because that's their social life and they need the daily structure. Kontz says the anticipation of losing time with friends can make some feel very alone.

"Don't try to fix it and say, 'Summer's almost here, you'll get over it.' Remember the here and now is what's overwhelming to them," said Kontz.

Anticipating the increase in calls for help, Teen Lifeline is calling on the community to work together to keep students S.A.F.E.

Search the back of your teen's student ID to make sure the Teen Lifeline Hotline number is on there and that they understand it's okay to use it.

Ask if they're having thoughts of suicide. Kontz says it's a scary question for parents but it will lift a weight off a teen's shoulders when they feel free to discuss it.

Form connections. Have regular, open conversations with your teen just to check in. Create an environment where they feel comfortable sharing, without judgment.

Encourage relationships. Kontz says sometimes teens need another adult they trust to bounce things off of, aside from their parents. She says often the pressure they put on themselves comes from not wanting to worry or disappoint Mom and Dad.

Kontz adds parents should be mindful about the words they use so as not to add pressure to an already stressed-out student. Instead of asking what grade they got on a test, she says to instead ask open-ended questions like, "How was your day?" or "How do you feel about the test?"

She also suggests acknowledging that it's a stressful time and to ask your teen if you can do anything to help.