April 14, 2010
Jane Pearson on Warning Signs for Childhood Suicide
Time: 00:03:15 | Size: 3.03 MB
Speaker: Jane Pearson, Ph.D. (NIMH)
Description: It’s a question asked by parents, educators and health professionals. How do we prevent suicide among our children? In this special podcast series devoted to Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, Dr. Jane Pearson of the National Institute of Mental Health talks about important warning signs that come from children. She also looks at how well-intended reaction to tragedy can have unintended consequences. Dr. Pearson is with the Division of Services and Intervention Research at NIMH and a leading expert on suicide research.
Announcer: This is NIMH radio… from Bethesda.
Dr. Pearson: So the children who attempt suicide can have many types of problems. It could be depression, anxiety, conduct disorder, substance abuse and it's typically a combination of things and there may be some events that are precipitants as well... so it's usually not just one simple cause.
Announcer: Dr. Jane Pearson is with the Division of Services and Intervention Research at the National Institute of Mental Health. A great deal of her research focuses on how to prevent suicide. When it comes to reaching out to children and the adults who care for them, the most critical action step may be- listening...
Dr. Pearson: Kids often do talk about what they're feeling. And people talk about gestures- being something that's just- oh, they're just trying to get attention. Well, they're trying to get attention for a good reason and it would be good to not ignore any kind of comment about "oh, I just want to die." It should probably reflect some type of distress and its worth evaluating.
Announcer: In addition to listening to our own kids... it's important to listen to their friends...
Dr. Pearson: Kids still prefer to talk to other kids. They're still reluctant to seek help from adults. So we're... we see the research moving towards how do you get kids to help kids more. Usually, there is some distress and some comment about not wanting to be around. Other friends might notice this and you should take those comments from the kid's peers very seriously and try to get some kind of evaluation as soon as possible.
Announcer: If there has been a youth suicide in the community, parents and schools face a delicate balancing act. How to combine loving respect- with caution...
Dr. Pearson: Schools have this challenge as I was mentioning of do we make a memorial to somebody who died by suicide... you know? Do we plant a tree... put a bench in. And all those are very kind things to do but we also want to send a message that yes, that person is missed but we want to make sure people don't also make that same choice to take their life by their own hands. So, it's a delicate balance because you want to be supportive of families but you also want to be preventative and dissuade somebody from doing this."
Announcer: For all adults responsible for the well-being of children therapy may be an important action step with time spent in a therapist's office- essential...
Dr. Pearson: What's difficult for any family who has somebody who is suicidal is... once you leave the office.. it's like the family is the protectors at that point. So, I think the best approach would be if there's a plan... a safety plan that providers can say with the child, you know, things seem to be OK now but if something comes up I want you to think about some ways of making sure everybody stays safe and that could be calling the therapist again... it could be going to the emergency room or it could be some other things that everybody agrees upon is to come up with a plan. That could mean calling a therapist.. it could mean going to the emergency room… or some other things everybody agrees upon to keep somebody safe.
Announcer: This is NIMH radio.