Silent Epidemic-Elisabeth’s Story

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is becoming an epidemic among our young people with a more than 70 percent increase in suicides between 2006 and 2016. In fact, suicide is the second leading cause of death for people ages 10-24 behind unintentional injury. In Mississippi, for every child who dies by suicide, there are 25 attempts. Statistics from the 2015 Youth Risk Survey taken in Mississippi indicated 15 percent of high school seniors reported having seriously considered suicide in the last year; 13 percent had attempted suicide, and six percent had received medical treatment for a suicidal injury. These stats are troubling and are growing ever closer to home.

In May 2018, Teresa Mosley spoke at Canopy Children’s Solutions’ Children’s Mental Health Summit. Teresa told the story of her daughter Elisabeth who is eternally 15.

Teresa speaking at the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit in May, sharing the story of her daughter, Elisabeth, and their lives after suicide.

Elisabeth was a typical teenager. She was smart, creative, caring, compassionate, an “old soul” who loved classic novels, black and white Hitchcock movies, animals and cinematography. Elisabeth was also among the 20 percent of youth who struggle with mental health challenges. Despite all the things that were right in her life, depression clouded Elisabeth’s ability to see the light beyond her darkness. She took her own life on June 13, 2006.

“Statistics are just numbers until you love one of those numbers, and I have loved one of those numbers,” said Mosley. “I want people to know that suicide is not prejudiced, it affects everyone. I pray that God will use the memory of [Elisabeth’s] life so that her death will not have been in vain.”

Mosley read the poem “Not Waving but Drowning,” by British poet Stevie Smith. She then explained the importance of recognizing when a person is struggling with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. While at a distance it may appear as if a person is fine and simply waving, in reality they are drowning.

Here are a few signs everyone should know that may indicate someone is struggling and may be at risk of suicide. If you recognize any of these symptoms in a child, teen or young adult, talk openly with them and seek professional help.

  • withdrawal from friends and family
  • trouble in romantic relationships/close personal relationships
  • slump in academic performance
  • giving away possessions
  • writing or drawing pictures about death
  • changes in eating habits
  • dramatic personality changes/signs of despair
  • deterioration of personal hygiene
  • problems sleeping
  • participation in risky behavior (drugs, alcohol, sex, self-harm)
  • talk of suicide, even in a joking way
  • have a plan of how they would commit suicide
  • having a history of suicide attempts

Mosley also spoke of the importance of not only adults recognizing and taking action if someone is talking about suicide, but also our youth.

When Emily, Mosley’s youngest daughter, was in 7th grade (approximately four years after Elisabeth’s death), a boy in her school posted on social media that he was going to take his life. Emily, with great concern in her heart, hurried to school alerting the school counselor. The boy was not at school that day. School administrators went to his home and were able to intervene, saving the boy’s life and getting him connected with help. That day, Emily understood the importance of speaking honestly and openly about her family’s experience, challenging the stigma with suicide and mental health, and to never to mistake a cry for help as a ploy for attention. Speaking up helped save a life.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, know that you are not alone; there are a number of resources available to those in crisis. Mississippi Department of Mental Health is the statewide provider for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. If someone is in imminent danger, go to your nearest emergency room immediately and connect with a local mental health provider.

Laura Walker is the staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions. Canopy is Mississippi’s most comprehensive nonprofit provider of children’s behavioral health, educational and social service solutions with locations across the state. For more information about services offered through Canopy, visit mycanopy.org or call 800-388-6247.

This article was featured in Parents & Kids Magazine September/October 2018 Desoto Edition. Click here to see more from Parents & Kids Magazine.

Young Leaders Needed for Canopy Youth Council

Thursday, September 9, 2018
4:30 P.M.
CANOPY CHILDREN’S SOLUTIONS ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE
1465 LAKELAND DRIVE, JACKSON, MS

Join Canopy for the 2018-2019 Youth Council Kick-Off meeting with guest speaker Teresa Mosley, who will share her family’s story about suicide.

The Canopy Youth Council aims to reduce the stigma around mental illness, change the conversation about mental health and open communication about issues that matter to youth. Each month will feature new educational opportunities and ways to get involved. The Canopy Youth Council will be made up of youth in grades 9 to 12 from Hinds, Madison and Rankin Counties.

Youth council members will:

  • participate in service projects and events to promote character building and leadership development
  • advocate on behalf of youth suffering from depression, anxiety, drug dependency, ADHD, and other issues
  • engage your school and community with mental wellness campaigns
  • participate in public events to promote mental wellness and inspire other youth
youth council meets with members of MS Legislature

Youth council members pose with members of MS Legislature at Canopy’s Day at the Capitol

Members of the 2017-2018 Council had the opportunity to volunteer at Canopy’s residential treatment campus for youth ages 6-17, make their voices heard by volunteering at the Mississippi State Capitol during Canopy’s Day At the Capitol event, hosting on-campus events at their local schools to promote Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 10), giving video testimonies to be shared at the 2018 Children’s Mental Health Summit in Jackson, and meet with administrators of their local school districts.

For more information, contact Tonja Smith
601-352-7784
tonja.smith@mycanopy.org

Click here for a printable flyer.

Test for Success

Grades are important, they help determine college selections, scholarship eligibility, and can guide future careers. One-third of all teens experience anxiety, particularly leading up to midterms, finals, ACTs and SATs. As parents, you can help ease children’s anxiety while encouraging them to do their best.

“Parents should support their children academically; however, some parents will add to the pressure a child already feels,” said Stephanie Moses, MAMFT, Outpatient Therapist for Canopy Children’s Solutions. “Children need the freedom to be children while acknowledging their academic responsibilities. It’s about balance.”

Preparing your child for strong academic performance begins at an early age. Instilling a love of learning through books, puzzles and academic play shows your child that learning is important. As a child grows, adapting those learning skills helps to support them in school and shows them you are equally engaged in their success. Ways to support these skills include practicing spelling words in the car, reviewing fractions while baking cookies, or reading a chapter in a book together before bed. Establishing strong study skills early is also important so that a child is accustomed to balancing school and other responsibilities. Well before a child reaches high school, these skills should be well-established. However, parents still play a critical role in their reinforcement, especially around busy test seasons.

Time management. Encourage your teen to develop a study schedule. Remind them that subjects where they excel will require less time than those where they may struggle and to budget time accordingly.

Conducive environment. Help your teen identify a setting that supports productive studying. Find a peaceful place without distractions that will help your child focus.

Encouragement. Offer your child an encouraging word when you check in on their progress. Checking in also helps you gauge burnout when a teen may need to take a break or move to another subject.

Perspective. Some teens thrive under stress but if stress negatively impacts them, give them perspective. One test or one grade isn’t going to impact their lives all that much. Reassure your teen that it will be ok, regardless of the outcome, as long as they do their best.

It’s ok to ask for help. If your child needs help, seek out local resources such as ACT prep classes, tutors or study groups. Also, if your child can’t control their stress and anxiety, schedule an appointment with a local therapist to help them develop positive coping skills and give them an opportunity to work through their stress.

Stay healthy. Ask your teen to join you for a bike ride or take a walk together. Provide nutritious meals and snacks that fuel their body and their brain. Remind your teen they need adequate sleep to properly focus and retain information. Drink lots of water and boost your immune system with daily vitamins to help stay well during test seasons.

no stress

Celebrate small victories. Did your teen complete their report on the Greek Classic The Iliad? Did they score an 89 on their Trigonometry test? Did they just come home from their first time taking the ACT? Then celebrate! Go out for dinner and ice cream, watch a movie, grab a cup of coffee or go shopping together. These opportunities tell your teen, regardless of the outcome, that you are proud of their efforts and you support them no matter what.

While it is important that we support our children’s goals and push them to reach their full potential, we must be cautious not to push beyond their limits. Remind your children that if they do their very best, that’s all you expect. It is our jobs as parents to support our children in failure and success.

By Laura Walker, staff writer for Canopy Children’s Solutions