Episode 54: Exploring Suicide and Suicidal Ideation

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with Stephanie Davis about self-injurious behavior and suicidal ideation in teenagers and tweens.

Davis provides that suicide is ranked as the second leading cause of death where she is located in Texas.  She feels that there are a lot of media influences that glorify the idea of suicide. Teens and tweens that are undergoing depression or emotional issues like the idea of being memorialized and gaining attention from this.  Students are overwhelmed by things going on in their life, like bullying, schoolwork, or pressure at home.

We discuss how to recognize signs that your child is engaging in self injurious behavior or contemplating suicide.  For self-injurious behavior, they typically have learned this behavior as a way of release. If you notice your child has started cutting, they most likely met someone that has exhibited that behavior.  They do this as a way to hurt themselves instead of hurting others. Davis mentions that many students now will cut their legs instead of arms as it is easier to hide. You may notice they’ve changed their clothing or don’t want to dress up for gym class.  Davis works with these individuals to help them find a healthier way to express their emotions. Regarding suicidal ideation, the parents just really need to pay attention to any changes in their child. A person can be depressed and wear a mask very well during the day.  Often people who are depressed are able to have very high energy and cover up their emotions. If they start giving things away or not really caring about anything at all, this is a red flag. Davis recommends developing a support system with the school.

Davis discusses how communication with your teen/tween has to be strategic.  Lecturing usually does not work. Empathy is important. As adults, we often feel like we don’t need to cater to our kids or be friends to them.  Davis recommends setting boundaries but showing tenderness at the same time. If you have a good school counselor, this is the best person to bridge the gap between you and your student.  The child may discuss things with the counselor that they may not discuss with you.

We next discuss what a parent should do if they start to notice changes in their child.  Davis says that a school counselor would often refer out to a therapist. As the school counselor, she keeps track of students’ grades and attendance and looks for a pattern of change in this area.  Keeping data is important, so Davis makes sure that she keeps track of all changes noticed. Parents should not be afraid to ask questions or get involved. There are usually several different steps taken before the school counselor would refer out.  When this happens, health officials and parents are notified. School counselors provide resources for the parents as well. If a student is absent from school for any extended time while dealing with this issue, Davis makes sure that all of the teachers are aware that there was an incident, without going into too much detail to respect the students’ privacy.  Everyone needs to be on the same page. Davis is always up front with the student about what she will be doing and what she will tell the teachers if she needs to notify them of anything.

If a parent is noticing these changes in their child, reaching out to the school counselor really is a good idea.  Davis feels that people often think that school counselors are just there to deal with grades and such, but they really do a lot of different things.  Davis’s main focus is the best interest of the child. By paying attention to small changes like showing up late or missing lunch only on certain days, you can identify many mental health issues or other issues with students.  We discuss what to do if the counselor isn’t always on campus. In elementary school, there is usually just one counselor, and the nurse and administrative team help deal with any issues. In middle school there are usually two, so if one is unavailable, the other would be, as well as the administrators.  In high school, there are usually around four counselors, depending on the size of the school. In Davis’s school, they all specialize in different things. If Davis was out, a parent could contact another counselor at the school. If suicide or self-injurious behavior is not their specialty, they could point you to the right person, even if it is not someone at the school.  

We next discuss that it is very important to build a network of support when your child is dealing with these types of issues.  Davis mentions that she has to partner with the diagnostician at her school, as students who are receiving special education services would have a different process for counseling than those that are not.  Davis provides that the parents often need to be counseled as well. We discuss tips for parents who need to reach out but don’t know how to do this. Davis recommends paying good attention to social media, friends, etc.  The child’s friends may come to you and let you know what is going on. Often we do not have this connection with our child’s friends due to how the nature of friendships has changed because of social media. Setting boundaries is important.  If you notice any changes, it is best to do something sooner rather than waiting. Davis recommends being proactive. She says parents often ask their children, “Why didn’t you tell me?” The child will often say, “I did, but you just didn’t listen.”  They may not tell you in their words that they are hurting, but they will show you with their actions. She says to never say, “I’m busy right now,” or, “I can’t deal with this right now.” You may never get the chance to listen again.



Stephanie Davis is a school counselor who is also a Licensed Professional Counselor with her own counseling service, Heartwork Trending.  One of her specialties is working with students who have self-harm or self-injurious behavior or have attempted or thought about suicide. She also specializes in crisis intervention.  Her goal is to change the stigma of those that seek mental health, as well as to influence and motivate tweens, teens, and adolescents to become well-rounded individuals that will achieve social and academic success.



WEBSITE: https://www.heartworktrending.net/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/heartworktrending/

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/heartworktrending/

AMAZON: Unmasked: The Journey and its Lessons

EMAIL: heartworktrending@gmail.com


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