Shedding light on teen suicide and solutions for prevention in the Conversations with Sydney podcast
CONVERSATIONS WITH SYDNEY is a solutions-oriented podcast series exploring effective ways for parents, teens, schools, and communities to respond to on-going crisis of teen mental health and suicide. Each episode is framed as an intimate conversation between a father (Micah) and his non-binary teenager (Sydney) as they search for real-world solutions by speaking with parents, doctors, and national leaders in the field of teen suicide prevention. Some of the questions we raise include: Should parents talk to their kids about suicide? How can parents begin to talk about mental health and suicide with their kids? What do we know about the signs of suicide and how can it be prevented? What is self-injury and how can parents help their kids find healthier ways to cope with their feeling? What role can schools and teachers play in addressing this unfolding national crisis? What role can teens play? Our hope is that these intimate and open-ended conversations will engage everyone who has a stake in helping young people lead healthy, happier lives – and encourage them to discuss these issues within their own families, schools and communities.
Episode 1: Should I Talk to My Teen About Suicide?
Teen suicide is real and impacting young people in all of our communities. Ten percent of all high school students attempted suicide in 2021, according to the CDC’s most recent report, with the rate rising to twenty percent of LGBTQ+ students. This initial episode asks can talking about suicide with your children be dangerous? Tracy Klingener, Director of Suicide Prevention at the Mental Health Association, debunks this myth by explaining why parents should talk to their kids about suicide.
Episode 2: Talking to Teens About Suicide
Teens are already talking about suicide – they just might not be talking to you. One out of every five high school students in the United States seriously considered suicide in 2021, according to the CDC, and more than half of our country’s female students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. In this episode we speak with Dr. Laura Erickson-Schroth, Chief Medical Officer at the Jed Foundation, about starting a conversation with your teen and some ways to respond if your child says they are thinking about suicide.
Episode 3: How the New 988 Hotline Works
Fifty years ago, most people believed that you could not prevent suicide, explains Dr. Madelyn Gould, Professor of Epidemiology in Psychiatry, Columbia University, but today, partly because of her ground-breaking research, we know that suicide IS preventable. And one of the most effective crisis responses is the new national 988 Hotline. The vast majority of people who call asking for help say that just twenty minutes of conversation, on average, stopped them from killing themselves. Dr. Gould explains why and how the 988 Hotline is so effective and urges young people (and their parents) to use this resource to keep them safe during a crisis.
Episode 4: The Paradox of Self-Injury.
Self-Injury is the deliberate destruction of body tissue – often through cutting or burning. Paradoxically, says Dr. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery, this behavior typically emerges from a desire to feel better, not to end one’s life. This impulse is critical, explains Dr. Whitlock, and it can be built upon to find healthier coping mechanisms. The episode also features Rylee Rose, a teen living in Northern New Jersey who has struggled with self-injury, explaining her reasons for self-injuring – and how this behavior fit into her larger struggle with mental health. Two of the most powerful findings of Dr. Whitlock’s research are that parental involvement was the single most important factor in a young person’s recovery – and the majority of teens who self-injure say they wish they could talk to an adult about their experiences.
Check out the rest of our line up at WBGO Studios.