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RBR SOURCE Hosts a Frank Discussion on How “Talk Saves Lives”—for Suicide Prevention

RBR SOURCE Hosts a Frank Discussion on How “Talk Saves Lives”—for Suicide Prevention


 The statistics are sobering. The growing crisis of suicide affects all age groups and communities.  Over 800,000 people die of suicide every year in the world. The age group with the highest suicide rate is 45 to 65 year olds. In the vulnerable teen community, suicide is the second cause of death for American children ages 10 – 14 and 18 to 24.

Acknowledging the magnitude of the problem and its sensitivity, in early May, the SOURCE, Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) school-based counseling program, hosted an intimate, frank conversation for its parental community on the subject.  In the casual and welcoming environment of a parent’s home, SOURCE Director Suzanne Keller, along with guest speakers Mary Fowler and Phyllis Alongi from the Upstream Suicide Prevention (through the RWJBH Institute for Prevention and Recovery) spoke to RBR parents about suicide, its signs, how to listen, respond and how to help. Upstream Suicide Prevention is a county-funded grant program.

            Mary Fowler introduced the program “Talk Saves Lives,” which was created by the American Society for Suicide Prevention.  She stated the program’s aim was for “everybody to be the eyes and ears for each other.”

            Phyllis Alongi explained that most suicides are preventable through education and awareness if we know the warning signs. Additionally, she encouraged parents to directly discuss suicide in order to “have that uncomfortable conversation with your kids.” 

            Alongi advised, “How we talk about suicide matters and affects the way kids talk to us about it.  We never say ‘that someone committed suicide’ as there is a negative connotation to the word, but rather we should state that someone died by suicide or ended their life by suicide.

Additionally we don’t say 'failed attempt' as that also has a negative connotation.  We just say that someone 'attempted suicide.'”

What causes a young person to take their own life?

The presenters responded that there is no single reason but research indicates that the intersection of multiple risk factors such as health, historical and environmental risks along with a triggering event can be contributory factors. In the case of young people, they are particularly vulnerable since their brains have not yet fully matured and their problem solving skills and perceived scope of their problem is impaired.  

Ms. Alongi added, “The age of the fully developed adult brain has been raised to 26 to 27 years according to a Cambridge University study. Additionally, our kids face increased pressures today, especially because of the non-stop exposure to technology (and social media.)”

            In helping parents recognize potential danger signs, it is important to understand who is at risk.

Risk factors include:

  • Anyone with a mental illness; this includes but is not limited to depression, bipolarity, anxiety, psychosis, personality disorders
  • A family history of mental illness
  • Someone who has been exposed to suicide or attempted it before.
  • Members of the LGBTQ community (as they are frequent targets of bullying and cyberbullying)
  • Mood imbalance or impulsivity
  • Serious or chronic health conditions
  • Anyone who has suffered a serious concussion within six months to one year
  • Environmental factors –stress, substance abuse, recent suffering of a life stress event such as a relationship breakup.


How can parents prevent suicide ideation from taking place?

A proactive measure would be to seek good mental health care before a crisis starts. Parents are advised to take their children to a therapist their child can be comfortable with—someone who is the right match for their child. And if your child refuses to go, the parent should see the therapist for help and guidance about how to help their teen.

Other positive factors that could prevent suicide ideation are strong family and community support; cultural and religious engagement, and teaching of problem solving skills.

Stress management can be addressed through such things as medication, exercising, yoga, support groups for survivors of suicide loss; etc.

Parents were advised never to underestimate the importance of promoting a healthy body to safeguard a healthy mind.  This includes exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and very importantly, getting adequate sleep.  The latter is defiantly lacking in most teenagers again with the major culprit being technology and early school start times.  The parents were encouraged to remove any phone, tablets and computers from their teenager’s room during sleep hours.

When a child is experiencing distress, parents were advised to avoid minimizing their children’s failings or trying to convince them that” life is worth living.” Instead, they should listen with care and seek professional help. If the child is in crisis, parents should get help immediately.  A list of resources was offered to parents. However it was emphasized that RBR parents possess an invaluable resource that very few school districts have---an on-campus mental health counseling group—The SOURCE. 

Suzanne Keller outlined the SOURCE’s many programs offered to all RBR students stating that the its mission is to “remove all obstacles that impede the success of students in the RBR community.”

She added, “We are the place that kids go when they can’t handle the stress. We see them where they are at—at the point when it is happening.”

For more information on the SOURCE, visit their webpage