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Helping a loved one with a mental illness

Posted at 6:24 PM, Jan 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-12 12:55:17-05

After a Sierra Vista teenager took his own life Tuesday in the bathroom of Coronado Elementary School - many have asked how they can stop this from happening to another child. 

Ninety percent of successful suicides are completed by someone with an underlying diagnosable mental illness, but it's a topic that many of us try to avoid because of stigma

"It is a stigma - people do not want to have these disorders, they don't know what to do with them, they don't talk about them," says Clark Romans with the National Alliance of Mental Illness Southern Arizona

Romans adds that 50% of people who live with a mental illness have diagnosable symptoms by the time they reach the age of 14-years-old. 

"Average time between noticeable symptoms and diagnosis in treatment is 10 years," says Roman. 

Often, abuse, neglect, a tragedy or any trauma can trigger a mental illness.

Romans says, "young people like this unfortunate young man from Sierra Vista probably struggle with emotions, feelings, difficulties that they were either unwilling or unable to share with anyone else. Or if he did - they dismissed it or ignored it." 

Parents and teachers are the solutions as students sometimes behave differently depending on who they're around. 

Warning signs include:

  • change of behavior
  •  withdrawn
  • grades drop
  • losing interest in activities such as sports or clubs

"These are changes in behavior, these are signals - they don't always mean mental illness, but they often do," says Romans. 

If your loved one expresses suicidal thoughts - don't ignore them. The best thing you can do it talk to them. 

Romans says, ask them questions. "Ask them if they are planning something? Do they have a plan? If you're thinking about taking your own life, do you have a plan? Do you have a time table." 

For those seeking help or someone to talk to call NAMISA at 520-622-6000 anytime - if you need assistance they will respond by sending Mental Health Crisis Teams. 

If you call 911 - ask for a C.I.T officer - they are trained to de-escalate situations. 

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