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Recently the grabbing headlines have been difficult to avoid. Another teenager has taken their life. Whether it was due to their sexual orientation or unbearable bullying by classmates that led these young people to take their own life, the results were always final. I share the Nation’s sadness that these teenagers felt there was no alternative to their situation.

Before the recent news making stories about teen suicide, I was already too familiar with the issue of teens and suicide. For the past four years I have worked as a counselor on a teen crisis hotline. The program, Teen Line, is housed at Cedars Sinai Medical Center where I trained to field calls from troubled teens. I have spent countless hours answering calls from teens in utter pain over issues ranging from child abuse by the hands of their parents, or their sexuality, or drugs or problems with their boyfriends or girlfriends. There are so many young people in pain just needing a person to listen to them share their grief.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surpassed only by accidents and homicide. Programs such as Teen Line are valuable tools in preventing teen suicide. The hotline is a safe haven for young people to call and have a peer talk with them about what is going on in their life. Unfortunately for many of the young people who take their own lives, they felt helpless and as if there was no one for them to speak with about their pain.

I am as disturbed as the rest of the nation over the recent incident at Rutgers University and the young girl Phoebe Prince from Massachusetts, both students who felt there was no alternative to taking their lives. If they only had had someone to talk with about their issues and their pain maybe it could have helped them see that there was an alternative to taking their life.

During my tenure with Teen Line I have spoken to many young people who were considering suicide. I would always be so nervous on these calls as saying something wrong to this caller could result in the teen taking their life. The fear of this drove me to become proficient in dealing with potential suicide calls.

The detailed procedures I had to learn in order to prevent one teen from taking their life was worth the extensive training and written follow-up report I had to file after each suicide call. On each suicide attempt call I had to ask the following questions to help prevent a life from being taken. I asked if there was a plan for how they would commit suicide, if drugs or a gun was in the room. Then I asked them to place the weapon or pills somewhere else, then after all this I had to ask for the promise that he or she won’t commit suicide. The caller often reluctant to accept these terms finally promises not to hurt themselves tonight.





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