Children First: Finding Help and Hope; Suicide Prevention

REBROADCAST May 21, 2017 at 10:30AM and Sunday, June 11, 2017 at 5:00PM

Breaking the Silence

ABC30 half-hour special focuses on suicide prevention

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

(Fresno, CA) - Suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth between the ages of 10 and 24. Talking about this topic makes some people uncomfortable but educators, parents and students want to know what is behind a recent spike in teen suicides in Fresno County. ABC30 will take an in-depth look at teen depression. ABC30 anchors Warren Armstrong and Graciela Moreno host a half-hour special, "Children First: Finding Help and Hope; Suicide Prevention" Sunday, April 9, 2017. It airs at 6:30PM.

This ABC30 special includes a Fresno mother who lost her son to suicide. She shares the signs of depression that were present but missed. She now counsels and educates families about mental illness. Valley Children's Pediatric Psychologist Dr. Michael Danovsky explains the signs of depression parents should watch for. A Kings County girl who wanted to harm herself shares her story of finding new reasons to live. Learn about the new California law requiring schools to have a suicide prevention policy. Six students from five valley high schools share their insights on the stressors students face today. Tulare County Office of Education has the RESTATE program. It combines suicide prevention and mental illness awareness with visual and performing arts. Clovis Unified School District held a Parent Academy presentation where families learned about youth mental health.
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Finding Help and Hope - Suicide Prevention

Children First is a year-round effort focusing on the challenges, problems and opportunities among our youth in Central California. The program shows how the average person can make a difference in a child's life and highlights local organizations working with kids. The Children First campaign includes half-hour programs like "Finding Help and Hope; Suicide Prevention", thirty-second public service announcements, and special stories on Action News. ABC30 thanks its partners below for putting Children First in the Central Valley.

ABC30 thanks its partners below for putting Children First in the Central Valley.


Doing Our Part to Address Teen Depression and Suicide Prevention

By Michael B. Danovsky, PhD
Supervisor, Pediatric Psychology
Valley Children's Healthcare

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There is an angst, depression and hopelessness plaguing our young people. Teen suicide is now the second leading cause of death in youth between the ages 10-24 nationwide. It has surpassed motor vehicle crashes as a major cause of death for kids 10-14 years of age.

It is sometimes hard to understand why this happens. But through awareness and education, we can learn to do our part in preventing more from happening.

Studies show that 90 percent of suicidal persons suffer from depression, anxiety or other mental illness. None of these is a weakness. Risk factors towards depression and suicide ideation are most often a culmination of a multitude of stressors which overwhelm a person.

Much like a mosaic or puzzle, stressors can be comprised of many parts. They may be thought of as being derived from four categories.
  • Genetics/Biology - chemical imbalances in the brain
  • Environment - what our home life was/is like
  • Temperament - our coping and response to stress
  • Life Experiences - sudden loss, bullying, physical violence, etc.

LGBTQ youth are also at increased risk which may be associated with social pressures and violence directed towards them.

The thought of suicide evokes strong emotions. Fear. Denial. Shock. Anger. Our social norms tend to wrap depression and mental illness in a stigma that cloaks its prevalence and severity. Sometimes emotional reactions to the stigma become barriers to action. But breaking this through discussion and compassion are the first steps towards healing.

So what can we do as parents, family, friends, educators and health providers?

We must look for the warning signs. These may include depressed moods, increased irritability, feelings of sadness or emptiness, lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities, withdrawal, weight changes, sleep disturbances, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, unusual or risky behavior, contemplation of suicide, or direct verbal cues.

It may manifest in hostility, agitation, restlessness, and anger. There may also be a component of substance abuse. Abuse of drugs often is a way of self-medicating to avoid or distract from the emotional and physical pain.

Remember that, unlike adults, children and teenagers may not express themselves as well at certain developmental levels. Other clues might be seen in social media entries, writings, drawings, or Internet research which focuses on death and dying.

Sometimes there are no obvious signs. Every child is different. Often youth are more open to their peers about depression than to their family. Advise your children to be aware of signs in their friends so that they also know what to do.

What if there are red flags?

If elements are recognized in a person, we are his or her first responder. We should reach out compassionately and genuinely, without judgement, anger or fear. Stay calm and ask questions about the depression without being emotional or critical. Simply listening can be the first step in providing hope.

It is essential to follow-up with action. Do not leave the person alone. Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects. If the situation is dire, call 9-1-1.

The National Suicide Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (8255) is free and available 24/7. Calling 2-1-1 in our region can provide information to mental health services.

It is equally important for the youth to see his or her pediatrician and initiate professional counseling sessions. This may lead to proper medication and a therapy plan.

Reach out to your school counselor or clergy person. Many schools and places of worship are equipped with resources and trained staff to discuss suicidal behaviors.

Suicide is preventable.

There is help. And there is hope. There is support from your community, schools, physician, counselor, church, family and friends. It takes perseverance and patience, but recovery can happen with the right treatment regimen. Hope is a gift that will sustain those without it.

STUDENT PANEL: Six students from five valley high schools share their insights on the stressors students face today
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Tulare County Office of Education

TCOE Behavioral Health Services

Restate Art Program

Valley Children's Hospital

Educational Employees Credit Union

Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

Fresno Survivors of Suicide Loss
(559) 322-5877

NAMI-National Alliance on Mental Illness


Tulare and Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force

The Trevor Project

Clovis Unified Emotional Wellness Resources

Clovis Unified Parent Academy

#huglikeTrevor Campaign

The Human Element

Valley Crisis Center

Fresno County Behavioral Health

Madera County Behavioral Health

Merced County Behavioral Health

Mariposa County Behavioral Health

Kings County Behavioral Health

Tulare County Health and Human Services Agency

Madera County Child Abuse Prevention Council
(559) 675-4970 ext. 547

Sanctuary Youth Center
Downtown Fresno
1-800-820-4YOU (4968)
Fresno State Fresno Family Counseling Center
(559) 229-3085

Stars Behavioral Health Group
4411 E. Kings Canyon Rd., Building #319
Fresno, CA 93702
(559) 600-2382

Tulare County Mental Health Information and Referrals

Visalia Adult Mental Health Clinic
(559) 733-6880

Tulare Adult Mental Health Clinic
(559) 685-2613

Porterville Adult Mental Health Clinic
(559) 788-1250

Mental Health First Aid

Fresno Mental Health Offices

Fresno Emergency Services

Westcare California

Fresno City College Psychological Services

Fresno State Student Health and Counseling Center