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“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”

—Bernard Willams
Resiliency Critical to Youth Suicide Prevention

Sometimes a problem can seem insurmountable to young people because they don’t have the life experience to understand the problem or the emotions they are feeling at the time are only temporary.

Unfortunately, this overwhelming sense of hopelessness drives thousands of young people to take their own lives every year.

That’s why kids need to build resiliency and develop positive coping mechanisms during their early years, according to Tim Hougen, Ph.D., a Senior Program Manager in the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health.

“Resiliency is the likelihood by which you’ll pick yourself back up,” he said. “It’s the ability to manage the stressors in your life.”

Getting young children invested in sports or hobbies before they become teenagers can help them build self-confidence and their ability to bounce back from life’s pitfalls.

One of the best ways to help young people develop these important life skills is for them to have positive adult role models who are not their parent.

Words of encouragement and praise often have more influence on children when they come from a non-parent, Hougen said.

“Parents think their children are amazing,” he said. “The rest of us have higher criteria.”

This is one reason why praise from a non-parent is so powerful.

That said, it’s still critical for parents to talk with their kids, even when they seem aloof to our questions.

“From time to time, most parents experience their children as difficult to understand emotionally,” Hougen said.

Everyone experiences sadness occasionally, so it’s not unusual for a child to cry when something upsetting happens.

When the tears won’t stop or a child begins to withdrawal from friends and family, it’s ok for parents to ask their child if they are thinking about hurting themselves. It’s also ok to seek professional help when a child needs it.

In a crisis, parents can contact the department’s Community Crisis Response Team at 909-386-8256, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at (800) 273-TALK (8255) or the California Youth Crisis Hotline (800) 843-5200.

These 24-hour hotlines are staffed with professional counselors who can talk to children and help their parents find professional help locally.

If it’s not a crisis and you're seeking help for your child, you can also contact County DBH Access and Referral Helpline at (888) 743-1478.

Click here to view suicide prevention information from the Center for Disease Control.
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