O’Dowd welcomed Roy Petitfils MA, LPC on February 7 for a Parent Education evening on teen suicide awareness and prevention.
Petitfils’ presentation began with a discussion of noteworthy statistics and demographics of suicidality and self-injurious behavior. Most significantly noting that suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens, that depression increases the risk of suicide by a factor of 12, that 1 in 5 teens engage in some self-harm, and that rates of anxiety among adolescents have increased from 1 in 10 in 2006 to 1 in 5 in 2016. Petitfils then continued to review of symptoms of depression and anxiety in distinguishing the differences in degree between those symptoms that would raise to the level of clinical significance to those that are part of the normal range of adolescent experience. He also reviewed some essential healthy coping strategies that teens can use to deal with depression and anxiety including journaling, good nutrition, frequent exercise, and religions rituals.
Petitfils offered support for parents in acknowledging the challenges that they can face in communicating with their teen about difficult issues. In an effort to help parents empathize with the perspective of teens, Petitfils used quotes from his clinical practice in which teens described their experience of mental suffering.
Making sure to first dispute the myth that talking about suicide and self-injurious behavior will cause teens to harm themselves, Petitfils offered parents advice as to how to start a conversation with their teen about a difficult topic. Primarily among his suggestions was to ask permission of a teen to have the difficult conversation and then to set a time limit for the conversation. Finally, with noteworthy empathy and clinical expertise, Petitfils concluded the evening fielding questions from the audience.