Free Shipping on Orders $75 and Up!

0

Your Cart is Empty

May 26, 2022 5 min read

Introduction

Dawn Doherty is the Executive Director at the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, a nonprofit organization that is partnered with Feeling Swell.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Dawn and ask a few basic questions to help open up our greater conversation on mental health and suicide!

  

Firstly, do you mind giving us a quick understanding of your responsibilities as the executive director SPTS?

D: Describing my day to day is always a challenge because every day is something different – which is the aspect of the job that I love. It is so much better to be busy than bored. As the ED, I am responsible for the high-level oversight of our team and the operations. Most recently I have been focused on helping to raise money through donor cultivation, grants and sponsorship. I also work to build relationships and partnerships to support our organization’s programs and efforts. It is important to meet with our elected officials and state departments to collaborate on youth suicide prevention, as well as advocate for legislation or suggest modifications to bills that have been introduced to help keep our kids safe.

 

What is SPTS’s mission and vision for the future?

D:Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide is dedicated to increasing awareness, saving lives and reducing the stigma of suicide through specialized training programs and resources that empower students, parents and educational leaders with the skills needed to help youth build a life of resiliency.

 In a nutshell, we provide programs and resources to increase knowledge about youth suicide, working closely with our target audiences of school staff, students, parents, community members, and health care professionals. Our goal is to utilize a holistic approach to build a foundation of support around our children and young adults so that they feel comfortable reaching for help – and more importantly know where to go for help - if they or a friend is struggling.

 

Why do we as a society have a difficult time talking about suicide?

D:There is still a huge amount of stigma around suicide and mental health. People are embarrassed to admit they are struggling, when in reality, and especially over last two years, everyone has struggled at some point. 

For parents, it is difficult to talk about suicide because there may be a layer of guilt or concern about what that they did or did not do as a parent. Mental health is similar to physical health and there are illnesses that pop up. We try to help parents understand that they would visit the doctor if their child broke their arm or is feeling sick, and that if they are feel sad or “off” for a period of time that they should also visit a doctor. Our resources and presentations for parents work to dispel the many myths about suicide, such as talking about suicide will make someone attempt or die by suicide (which is definitely not true).

 That’s what we are working toward having the entire community around a young person understand that they are not alone and that there is help available. It is so important to maintain hope.

 

Are the younger generations more open to talking about mental health?

D: It does seem as though they are, and it’s very important to give them that permission to talk and leave the conversation open so that they continue to feel comfortable reaching out to a trusted adult if they or a friend is in need. I do try to practice this with my own kids, and it is advice that we share during parent presentations. Talk to your kids about the good and bad parts of their day. The more comfortable they are with language about feelings, the easier it may be to ask for help if they do need it. What are the factors that make children more likely to open up about mental health?

Depending on the age of the kids and experiences, they don’t know differently. Having an increased number of celebrities and professional athletes talking about mental health has been helpful to kids to recognize that it is OK not to be okay. When we hit the tipping point where mental health is viewed similarly to mental health it will help normalize the conversation. Kids (and adults) will know that it is not anything that they did or didn’t do, but just an illness like diabetes or lymes disease that can be treated. Many children do not have a shift in their perspective until they reach out and have a negative experience.

It’s also a factor of environment.. Kids brought up in open and accepting environments, where their feelings are validated will be more comfortable asking for help than someone in an environment that is more closed off and less accepting.

That goes beyond than mental health issues as well. Fostering an accepting environment is important to every issue that kids are dealing with, especially in the LGBTQ community, communities of color, etc. Parents can learn more from the SPTS online resource Not My Kid: What Every Parent Should Know available for free at our website www.sptsusa.org/NotMyKid

 

What is a small thing every person can do to reduce stigma?

D:I do just believe that talking about their feelings and potential struggles helps to promote that open conversation. Accepting and embracing those who may be struggling is always helpful and just trying to be supportive of one another. Talking about any issue will help reduce the stigma around it.

 

What are your three tips or notes for anyone who is struggling?

  • It is important to first recognize that you are not alone and know that there is always help. Know who your Trusted Adult would be if you do need help.
  • Work on building your own coping skills and stress management techniques. Life will bring forward challenges but you are strong enough to overcome them.
  • Reach out for help! On the national level, there is the crisis text line or suicide prevention lifeline that are available 24/7. On the local level, there are chapters of Mental Health Associations and NAMI in every state. Of course I will strongly recommend everyone check out our website, SPTSUSA.org; there is a ton of information and resources there for parents, teens, school staff and community members. It is important just to say that seeing a counselor and therapist is so helpful, whether you’re directly struggling or

 

 If you or a friend needs help, please speak to a trusted individual, contact a mental health professional, or reach out to the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741-741 or call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800)-273-8255. Starting July 2022 you will be able to call 988 to receive mental health support from anywhere in the United States.