By Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPCC, LLC
The Truth Contributor
There are many boxes to check when a mental health provider is conducting a diagnostic assessment during the first session of a therapy session or at a mental health facility that law enforcement or an emergency room facility someone has first encountered. Youth or adult, a diagnostic assessment asks very specific questions such as previous abuse that includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or mental. “Have you ever been touched or fondled in a sexual manner in which you did not consent?” “Has anyone in your family completed a suicide or have you attempted a suicide in the past? These are just two questions asked on a sometimes 5- page assessment,
Suicidal, homicidal, self-harm and abuse questions will be asked. Those pertinent boxes are some of the most important due to the risk of the individual repeating or attempting the behavior and gives the provider a better sense of your level of harm done by self, others or both.
When conducting a diagnostic assessment, not everyone tells the truth, especially youth and if there is a cultural difference between medical provider and youth being asked, that can only cause another issue of verifiable information. Suicide questions should be met with care such as is English the youth’s first language? Is the youth being asked the question, Black, is the provider have cultural competency or Black, or is the youth being assessed have any other issues such as hearing deficiencies and need a provider who is fluent in sign language?
Marginalized populations often have to wait longer, and feeling treated disrespectfully due to a provider not available to meet the youth’s needs.
In part 1 (August) issue of a mental health moment, I communicated that there would be more information on how to prevent youth suicide and how it can be addressed. I began this article with the boxes being checked during a diagnostic assessment for a few reasons. First reason, some providers do not even ask or check the boxes about suicide to include thoughts, plans or means to carry out the act, maybe they are in a rush, maybe they don’t care or it’s close to shift change and second reason even if it is asked or checked is there a follow-up with the parents/guardians such as are there means in the home the youth could carry out an attempt such as knives, firearms, or other forms such as rope or pills.
This is a difficult world we live in as not just adults but in general. Some have it worse than others and some have it better than others but the bottom line is when it comes to youth suicide, it’s not about who is without material means it’s about who is without a who? Role models, mentors, parents, family of any kind, coaches and I really want to say teachers but I know teachers have a very difficult job of spending more time with our children than we do. Something will be missed and they should not be held accountable completely about the safety of our youth. From my professional opinion from a mental health provider to a teacher is to acknowledge or report, ask the youth and plainly let them know that they care and direct them to the right places such as phone apps, other school workers such as counselors or coaches even parents but don’t ignore the most basic signs. Yes, I clearly stated earlier that teachers are not counselors but you are still held responsible for the gatekeepers of our children, if you see, or hear or find something say something. It’s the least you can do and if it were your child, you would want someone to do the same.
Below are some resources:
- 988 – A mental health care line like 911 but dedicated to mental health emergencies or concerns. English and Spanish.(24 hours/7 days a week)
- American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (ASFP.org)
- – Kids’ Mental Health Apps and Websites for Anxiety, Depression, Coping Skills, and
- Professional Support. Apps, sites, and text hotlines help kids cope with issues from stress to suicide
MY3 allows users to create a network of people they can reach out to when they are having thoughts of suicide and to create a plan to stay safe. Encourage students to choose 3 adults to help when they need it the most.
Stay Alive is full of information and resources for people struggling with thoughts of suicide. It allows users to find help, identify signs of suicide and resources to understand suicide better. It includes a safety plan and a life box where users can store information and photos that are important to them. Great tool for parents of children with suicidal ideation.
HELP Prevent Suicide
HELP lists warning signs and provides information on how to talk to a person who may be suicidal. It also provides national and Oklahoma specific resources that users can reach out to for additional help.
Suicide Safer Home
Suicide Safer Home provides support for families of people at risk for suicide. It offers tips on how to be aware of warning signs, how to take action and risk factors to be aware of.
Virtual Hope Box
Virtual Hope Box is designed as an accessory to treatment to remind people struggling with mental health or suicidal ideations all the positive things they have in their lives. It provides tools for coping, relaxing, and positive thinking to help them create a positive environment for themselves.
Technology helps us to reach students we may otherwise lose if we were to provide them with only the traditional methods of support: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255
Adults, please take a mental health moment if you are caring a for a child or responsible for a child in any capacity please speak up. I know most adults these days think our youth to be “out there” but remember there was a time when you were a child, you were a teenager and knew EVERYTHING! Let them think what they want let’s just do our best to keep them alive, I guarantee if you reflect back now you can think of those one or two adults who really saved your life. Mine was my fifth and sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Washington, at Lagrange elementary school. I even remember her exact words that stuck with me for life. “Be sure to get your education because no one can ever take away that piece of paper you receive and the knowledge will be with you forever.: Thank you Mrs. Washington, I have a couple of those pieces of papers today and I may not have had you not taken the time to say those few words.
Bernadette Joy Graham, MA, LPCC, LLC
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