School counselor shares suicide prevention resources for struggling teens

TUKWILA, Wash. -- Two teenagers died by apparent suicide in the past week who were survivors of the shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died in a mass shooting in 2018. And early this morning, the father of one of the children who died in the Sandy Hook elementary shooting died in an apparent suicide.

Julie Groesche, school counselor at Showalter Middle School in Tukwila, says she’s heard a lot of personal stories within the four walls of her counseling office.

“I think it’s a lot of meeting kids where they are,” said Groesche.

She adds that every child and teenager are in different places in their lives and have different ways of processing life events. She says some of her students like to cry it out, others hesitate to talk much and some open up when asked.

In this past week, when she heard of the apparent suicides, she says it was their classmates she worries about.

“I think about what it’ll be like when they come back to school the next day,” said Groesche.

She added the reasons why people take their own lives are very personal, but the amount of pressure on children and teens these days is enormous.

“Our kids are worried about whether or not their parents are going to pay the rent,” said Groesche.

Knowing that breaking point for a person can be tough, but her experience has shown her communication can make all the difference.

“Sometimes just asking the question makes a huge difference because they say 'Oh someone noticed that I’m struggling,'” said Groesche.

She says asking the question is asking about suicide, she suggests to ask it directly and use the words, ‘Are you thinking about suicide?”

“A lot of people are afraid of using the word 'suicide' or saying 'Are you thinking of killing yourself?' because they think it’ll plant the seed. It won’t,” said Groesche.

She says signs of struggle can be hidden behind the screen too.

“Social media, it’s really toxic,” said Groesche.

She says teens mostly use SnapChat and Instagram these days, and says all social media accounts should be closely monitored by parents.

“They might think it’s infringing on their child’s privacy but really, parents need to have the passwords to all their kid’s social media accounts, because they’re still kids,” said Groesche.

Suicide doesn’t have one single cause, but signs of changes in eating, mood or even an unusual sense of happiness, which Groesche says can happen after a person has made the decision to commit suicide are things to pay attention to.

She says the face to face conversation is the most important, because you never know when being heard will make all the difference in a person’s life.