Saturday, October 13, 2012
Parents form North Texas’ first suicide support group for teens
Existing suicide support groups are geared toward adults. The new group will focus on ages 13-17.
FLOWER MOUND Martha Giles knows the pain of losing a loved one to suicide.
Her son, Dan, committed suicide in 2004. She and her family have been learning to cope ever since.
"It's a devestating act," said Giles, a Lewisville resident. "It's not like any other kind of grief because it's intentional. You ask the question why, and there is really no good answer."
Since then, Giles has watched the suicide statistics across the country climb over the years. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), there were 38,3864 suicides across the country in 2010. That's 12.4 incidents per 100,000, the highest rate in 15 years.
Giles has heard stories of others locally who have taken their lives as well, including 9-year-old Montana Lance, a fourth-grader at Stewart's Creek Elementary School in The Colony. Giles also recalls hearing the story of a star football player at Lake Dallas High School who killed himself in early 2011 and a middle school student in the same district that committed suicide a month later.
With incidents like those have come more involvement in support groups.
Touched By Suicide (TBS) of North Texas is one such organization. Flower Mound's TBS group began nine years ago by Sue Endsley, whose son committed suicide. The group meets on the first Tuesday of each month at Trinity Presbyterian Church, 5550 Morriss Road.
Giles hosts the Lewisville gathering, which meets the second Thursday of each month at Wesley Hall, 2901 Denton Tap Road in Lewisville.
Both Lewisville's group and one in Denton began after members attended the Flower Mound group.
However, Giles and Sherri McCarthy, both TBS board members, noticed that the groups are more geared toward adults. So Giles and McCarthy plan to begin a TBS group for teenagers later this month.
McCarthy, a counselor at B.B. Owen Elementary School in The Colony, serves on the Lewisville ISD crisis team, which visits campuses to talk with students following a tragedy.
"We go to the school to talk to the students for two days," McCarthy said. "But after two days, we're gone. There is no place for the students to go to after those two days."
McCarthy said the effects of a tragedy like suicide linger, and teens need much more than two days to express their feelings. She said there are few places in DFW that offer a suicide support group for teens.
"Sometimes they take their feelings to Facebook, and they start rumors about the person," McCarthy said. "Sometimes those aren't even true."
She added that teenagers exposed to suicide then become high-risk children themselves.
"We really saw a need to open up a teenagers support group," McCarthy said.
The TBS teen group, open to 13- through 17-year-olds, is expected to take place from 7-8:30 p.m. on the first or third Tuesday of each month at Trinity Presbyterian Church. In fact, it may coincide with the adult support group at the same location -- but in a different room -- so that a family impacted by suicide can attend their respective groups together.
"Kids relate to each other better than talking to their parents sometimes," Giles said. "It's hard for kids to understand something like this. It's even hard for adults to understand it. They can't get their minds around it because it's so unthinkable."
McCarthy, a licensed professional counselor supervisor, will facilitate the teen groups with Giles, who leads the adult group, assisting. They will use information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), where they received their training, and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) as a basis for discussion.
Group discussions will focus on several components, including how to move on following a loved one's suicide, coping mechanisms and where to get support. Meeting others who have experienced the same thing is a big part of the group.
"This will help them express their sorrow and talk about how they feel," Giles said. "It will help them find positive things about that person to think about and will help them find the tools they need to manage the grief and move on to a productive future. Talk therapy is very good."
McCarthy said there is no fee to join the group, though new members will need to meet with the facilitators first to make sure they are ready to join a group like this.
McCarthy and Giles also remind the community of the sixth annual Touched By Suicide Walk, which will take place from 9 a.m. to noon November 3 at Bartonville Town Center. The walk is aimed to raise awareness of suicide, and money raised will go toward literature distributed to area schools that discuss such things as warning signs and ways to get help.
For information on the teen support group or the Lewisville support group, contact Giles at email@example.com. For information about the Flower Mound adult support group, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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