Tackling the tough topic of teen suicide

The Means Report - Tackling The Tough Topic Of Teen Suicide graphic
The Means Report - Tackling The Tough Topic Of Teen Suicide graphic
The Means Report - Tackling The Tough Topic Of Teen Suicide graphic
The Means Report – Tackling The Tough Topic Of Teen Suicide graphic

Augusta, GA (WJBF) – “The Means Report” is tackling the tough topic of teen suicide with an expert to help walk us all through that issue that faces so many of our young people, sadly. But there’s good news. We have information and tell you about resources you could pursue that can help keep our young people on the right track. Natalie’s Light is one of those wonderful resources. We will talk about it and how you can take advantage of the benefits that it provides.

Brad Means: Let’s tackle the topic, as I mentioned, of teen suicide. Dr. Patrick Lillard is a psychiatrist and a neurological surgeon. He’s been kind enough to be with us and lend his expertise. Dr. Lillard, thanks for what you do for our kids and thanks for being here.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Thank you.

Brad Means: First of all, I was looking at statistics, as I often do when I’m getting ready for the Means Report, and I hate to bog people down with numbers, and so I just pulled one that stood out, and that is that suicide is the second leading cause of death among young persons age 15 to 24. Why, and if there’s more than one reason, that’s fine, but why do young people generally choose to take their own lives?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Well, number one, is that they’re dissatisfied with who they are. They feel shame, sometimes guilt, not always realistically, but this is a particular stress-filled time of life when you’re deciding what you’re going to do with the remainder of your life, and also you’re trying to develop permanent relationships, and that’s a quagmire within itself.

Brad Means: How come we don’t notice that stress a lot of times? I thought it was a happy go lucky, carefree time, the best time of these children’s lives.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Well, it’s not. They’re trying to define their identity and who they are and what they’re going to do with their life.

Brad Means: Are we applying that pressure as parents, without even knowing it? And if so, how, and how can we rein it in?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Well, our culture puts that pressure on not necessarily parents. The culture places a role or a task so that you’re defined by what you do, rather than who you are. You look at values of what you own and what you possess, instead of looking at values such as honesty, and kindness, and generosity, and empathy.

Brad Means: Well, it sounds like the pressures that you described are unavoidable. Because if we teach those basics of life, honesty, character, caring for your fellow man, well then they walk out the door of our home and see the person with the fancy house and the fancy car, they’re gonna think, “I have to be like that.” Is that how you would see it, or am I just presuming that?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: No, I think that’s a good characterization of the problem. And it’s increased over the last 15 years. The rate of suicide has increased, in that age group, 30%.

Brad Means: Do drugs have to be involved? Are drugs typically involved in the young person who wants to take their life?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Can be, but it… In young males guns are still the major issue.

Brad Means: Well–

Dr. Patrick Lillard: But as far as the contribution of various substances?

Brad Means: Sure.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Yes.

Brad Means: Yeah.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: It’s one of the things that you need to be aware of in young people when their life seems to be changing, then you need to think about could it be that they’re on a substance.

Brad Means: 63% of the people who take their own lives in this young age group are white males. Any idea why that is that mostly white males are in the suicide group?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: I could speculate, partly because males are action-oriented and there’s old aphorism that males act out and females emote, so… And this is good, from my point of view, that females express their emotions,

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Males tend to act out, so when they say life is not worth living they’re less likely to express that and to act on that thought.

Brad Means: Is the predisposition to commit suicide hereditary?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: No, it’s not. It’s not in the gene, but there’s a very, very strong familial component. If you’re a member of a family where there is ongoing depression, you tend to be depressed yourself.

Brad Means: Sure, if the mood of the home is dark.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Correct.

Brad Means: All right, let’s talk about ways that we can change these things, that we can reduce these numbers. Natalie’s Light is a wonderful resource, and I know that you’ve been kind enough to become involved with that group, a group formed out of such tragedy. A young lady, Natalie Wood, took her life two years ago, 2015, and her parents saw to it that this group was formed to make sure that others didn’t do the same. Should you seek out a group setting if you’re trying to, perhaps, pull your child back from the edge? And if so, how do you get that ball rolling, Doctor?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: First thing is to be aware of the problem. It crosses all demographic lines. Doesn’t matter what race, whether you’re rich or poor, what your religion is, where you’re from, it’s worldwide. It could happen to you. So if you educate yourself on what are the things… Hallmarks. We like to use the example of if somebody’s having a heart attack, most of us know the warning signs.

Brad Means: Sure.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Or a stroke, right? What are the warning signs that somebody might be thinking about ending their life?

Brad Means: How do you know that it’s gone beyond a typical moody, hormonal teen?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: A change in pattern is the hallmark. You have a young person that is active in school, with other activities, has friends. They like interacting, they like taking care of themself, that they suddenly withdraw. They stop doing things. Things that they were interested in, they stop. They become irritable, whereas they’re generally… You know, we all have our ups and downs, but you see a pattern change. It’s important to pay attention to that and to reach out and connect with them.

Brad Means: I saw that sleeping a lot is a warning sign.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Or the opposite.

Brad Means: Or not sleeping, okay.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: A change in pattern.

Brad Means: In pattern.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: See…

Brad Means: So if your kid sleeps til 11:00 on a Saturday, don’t freak out. That’s just what they do.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: If that’s their pattern.

Brad Means: Right.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: But if they sleep all day or they don’t sleep at all, that’s a problem.

Brad Means: Okay, okay, I got ya. No, that’s helpful, that’s extremely helpful because we do all have teenagers who love to sleep a lot. But when that pattern changes–

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Correct.

Brad Means: Or when it becomes extreme.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Yes.

Brad Means: You believe that suicide, I’m guessing, is preventable.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Absolutely.

Brad Means: Is early intervention the key here, or is it ever too late?

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Number one, it’s never, never too late. But early intervention is the way we’re gonna reduce the… There’s been 150 suicides in the Columbia, Richmond, and Aiken counties over a two year period.

Brad Means: I couldn’t believe that, shocking, 150.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: Right, well, to reduce that number down to zero, maybe we’re a little delusional but that’s what we aim to do, we need to start early. I’m gonna give this little story. We need to connect with people on a basis where we don’t have to say anything, we just say, “How are you doing?”

Brad Means: And mean it.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: There was a thing in the newspaper, and it was six months ago or so. There was a college football team that was at a local school, and they were going around glad handing the students and it was great. But then they went into the lunchroom at noon, and one of the football players noticed that there was a child, student, sitting over in the corner by himself.

Brad Means: Oh, yeah.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: And he walked over and sat down. He changed that child’s life.

Brad Means: Something that small.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: That’s all it takes is, you see someone, that they’re withdrawn and they’re struggling. Just saying, “How are you doing?” can make all the difference. Making human connection is more important. It doesn’t require somebody with all this education and such, it requires reaching out and connecting on a human basis.

Brad Means: Well–

Dr. Patrick Lillard: That’s the first step, the most important one.

Brad Means: I think a lot of people are listening to what you’re saying and will hopefully, as soon as this broadcast is over, go out into the world and try to make that connection with our young people and get that process started of getting them on a road to a better life. And I just cannot thank you enough, Dr. Lillard, for what you do and for how much you care for and love our young people.

Dr. Patrick Lillard: I thank you so much for this opportunity.

Brad Means: Well, you’re always welcome on the Means Report. Psychiatrist and neurological surgeon, Dr. Patrick Lillard, and more importantly, an advocate for our young people. Listen to what he said, rewind it, make your kids watch. Natalieslight.org is the organization we talked about. There’s one way to reach out to them. On Facebook, Natalie’s Light Shines is how you could track them down there, or just email info@natalieslight.org

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s