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Father’s Day and Your Teen

advice from Elliot Kallen about how to talk to your teen

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This Sunday is Father’s Day. Let me begin by wishing all the dads a terrific day and hope you spend time with your family and friends.

This Father’s Day weekend, I urge you to take the time to check in with your teens. Doctors at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek say they have seen more deaths by suicide during this quarantine period than deaths from the COVID-19 virus. Dr. Mike deBoisblanc, head of the trauma unit at John Muir, lamented, “We’ve seen a year’s worth of suicide attempts in the last four weeks.”

If you did not realize that depression and suicide are at epidemic levels, especially among teens, I hope this announcement will awaken you to this scary reality: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens aged 10-24 and has increased annually since 2007. Between 2007 and 2018, the national suicide rate among this age group has seen a 57.4 percent increase.

For decades, U.S. male teens have died by suicide far more frequently than girls, even though girls attempt suicide and report contemplating it more often. A recent study published in JAMA suggests the gap between male and female youth suicide deaths is narrowing. Suicide rates among white teens are double those of non-white teens.

In Contra Costa County, the greatest number of suicides occurred among whites, and nearly three-fourths of these were males. 

Dr. Laura Kester, adolescent medicine physician at UC Davis, says the challenges that children and teens normally face have been amplified by isolation and distancing during the pandemic.

What can you do as a parent if you’re concerned about your child contemplating suicide?

step 1

Talk to your teen every day.

Be open when talking with your teen. Let them know that you love them, support them, and are there to talk and listen. Shift back and give them the safe space to express their thoughts and feelings. 

step 2

Try not to let them spend too much time alone. 

Isolation and withdrawal can worsen depressive symptoms. Find out how they are feeling about their friends, their social life, their current and future school classes, their upcoming summer, their future, and their eating habits. 

step 3

Ask hard questions.

Ask them whether they are experiencing feelings of self-disappointment or worthlessness. Family Counselor Joshua Wayne offers actionable tips on how to have difficult conversations with your teen in this 2-minute video.

step 4

Take the appropriate precautions at home. 

Safely secure all medications, substances or weapons.

step 5

Get professional help.

If you feel that your teen needs help:

  • If you feel your teen is in crisis, then call 211 or 911 for help immediately.
  • Please visit our Resources page. It’s full of resources for teens, for parents, and shows a list of local treatment programs and centers.
  • Ask your Pediatrician for referrals to mental health professionals.
  • Browse directories of mental health professionals including Psychology Today and Yelp.
  • Try virtual therapy through BetterHelp or Talkspace.

You may need to have your teen assessed for depression and whether they are at risk of hurting themselves. Moreover, some teens and parents are embarrassed about going to therapy or taking medication to feel normal. However, there should be no shame and no stigma in attending therapy and/or taking antidepressants. Do not be afraid of facing this, and please do not shy away from this.

For more information, please browse the ABD blog. It is filled with lots of easy, actionable tips for coping with the difficult and stressful parts of life.

Please join us at our upcoming 5TH ANNUAL GOLF TOURNAMENT, a terrific day of sunshine, golf, and philanthropy. All funds will go toward driving teen mental health awareness locally and nationally.

The Golf Tournament is happening on Friday, August 20th at 11:00am. We hope to see you there!

Elliot Kallen

President, a brighter day charity



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