My guest today is Dr. Jonathan Singer, Ph. D., LCSW, who is an expert in the area of suicide. He is an Associate Professor of Social Work at Loyola University in Chicago and the founder and host of The Social Work podcast. He co-authored the book, Suicide in Schools. This episode focuses on suicide assessments and interventions and is the first of a two-part series.

  • Therapists can do much at various levels to assess risk. The most important action is to screen for suicide risk at each intake assessment, whether it’s suspected or not. Often, aggression and other behavioral disturbances can be evidence of suicide risk, so ASK the questions!
  • What can parents do? Dr. Singer says that parents of any child at risk should talk to the school counselor about a referral. “Don’t start looking for someone when the need arises.” Therapists should also connect with school counselors and let them know who you are and what you do.
  • Dr. Singer explains Attachment-Based Family Therapy, which is emotion-focused and addresses the fundamental issue of why kids don’t see their parents as a resource for help. “Why does the child feel like it’s a better choice to die rather than talk to and open up to their parents?” Repairing the “attachment rupture” makes it easier than to talk about everything. Kids need their parents to be a safe place!
  • Within ABFT, parents must understand the difference between condoning and validating by giving care and acceptance with words and actions. Use the phrase, “tell me more” to encourage kids to share. With this, they gain confidence to start problem-solving on their own—and this is what we want them to do!
  • Another important aspect of ABFT is the service coordination between therapist and counselor. The amazing work in your office is not going to be beneficial if the adults in the kid’s life are not on the same page!

 

Resources:

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Suicide in Schools by Dr. Jonathan Singer

Social Work Podcast

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