by Christina Lombard, Casa Pacifica SAFTY Program Manager
Suicidal thoughts? Violent or self-harm tendencies? Casa Pacifica is here to help.
No call is too early. Our Safe Alternatives for Treating Youth, or SAFTY program is designed to respond to at-risk youth experiencing a mental health crisis, to preserve families, and strengthen communities through collaboration with law enforcement, schools, and/or existing treatment teams to prevent psychiatric hospitalization, juvenile detention, or placement in out-of-county facilities. Our SAFTY program receives about 2,000 calls annually with the busiest months occurring during the holidays and school year. We provide treatment for the entire Santa Barbara County and to youth up until their 21st birthday.
We want kids and families to call us directly at any sign of risk. Most of the calls to our SAFTY crisis hotline are from third parties – schools, hospitals, or law enforcement. Very few calls come directly from the concerned party and we would love to change that. We respond to mental health crisis at all levels. Whether someone is violent, suicidal, self-harming, or prone to other unsafe behavior related to mental illness, please take it seriously and call a professional – whether it’s Casa Pacifica’s Santa Barbara County SAFTY Hotline, the crisis text line, or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please reach out.
What should I look for? Even simple statements like, “What’s the point anymore?” are tempting to brush off as a normal teenage thing to say, but statements like that should always be taken seriously. Other warning signs to be mindful of are increased tendencies to isolate, changes in appetite or eating habits, sleep disturbances such as not sleeping or over sleeping, moodiness, irritability, anxiety or excessive worry, not wanting to go to school, or being bullied should also be paid attention to and explored further. Try not to minimize these behaviors as “normal teenage behaviors” – if the behaviors are lasting more than two weeks, consider reaching out to a professional. Don’t be afraid of the word suicide, it is important to keep an open line of communication and take away of the shame and stigma surrounding not only suicide, but all mental illness.
The media and social landscape surrounding suicide and its stigma have drastically changed in the last decade. And although well-intentioned, the media has inadvertently glorified suicide while trying to inform the public. When a teen sees a completed suicide, this can increase their chances at attempting suicide. As adults, we have the life experience to know things can eventually get better, but for a still-growing teenage brain it can be difficult for them to comprehend a bigger picture and a possibly better tomorrow. For those experiencing mental health symptoms of depression and/or anxiety the negative thoughts can take over, become repetitive which can be difficult to manage. According to 2016 CDC statistics, suicide rates across the nation are on the rise. Suicide is now the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34.
If you know a loved one who struggles with depression or any mental illness, it’s good to just keep checking in. Ask them how they are doing. How was their day? Don’t accept, “fine” as an answer, dive deeper. Teens especially often give the impression they don’t want help or want to be left alone, but they really do crave that caring and concern from important people in their lives. Be persistent. Statistics indicate that if a youth can connect to one person in their lives it is a protective factor that can reduce their risk for not only suicide, but other at-risk behaviors. That important person doesn’t even have to be a parent, it can be a coach, pastor, teacher, or other adult figure.
Let’s be part of the solution and not shame people for reaching out. It’s not only okay to reach out for help, it is safe. If you, or someone you know hasn’t had the best experience reaching out, try again. You will find someone who will help. Use any one of the resources below to find more localized resources for yourself or someone you know. Together, we can change the discussion around suicide and mental illness.
Casa Pacifica SAFTY Hotline (for Santa Barbara County): (888) 334-2777
Crisis Text Line: 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255