Teens and Suicide

The local headlines this past month included the tragic loss of a 10-year old boy to suicide. I’m certain that no parent or grandparent ever gets over this. One of the few details that was shared in the Courier Journal was that he was bullied. I want to address the issue of Bullying in a later blog because it affects lots of kids and teens and it’s a very complicated behavior.

Suicide is very rare with children. Not so with Teens.

Consider the current trends:

-In 2016 adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 had a suicide rate of 13.15.

-8.6% of youth in grades 9 through 12 reported that they made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months.

-Girls attempt suicide twice as often as boys.

-Approximately 1,500 teenagers will attempt suicide in the next 24 hours.

-15.8% of youths in grades 9 through 12 reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months.

Teenagers send signals that something is wrong. They tend to be in clusters. If we suspected a teen at risk for suicide because they were sleeping too much, then many teens would be at risk. We are looking for changes in the typical functioning of your teen. We are looking for changes in a cluster of behaviors. These signals indicate that your teen might be at risk.

What are some of the Danger Signs?

Hopeless comments such as, “nothing really matters,” or “I just want to end it all.”

Sleep problems including sleeping too much or too little, insomnia, waking up often while sleeping.

-Preoccupation with death such as a fascination with music, art work, or poetry that has morbid themes.

School problems such as difficulty keeping grades up.

-Signs of depression such as feelings of worthlessness, social withdraw, loss of appetite, increased irritability,  and a “down” expression.

There are events that can increase the likelihood of suicide thoughts or events. These include:

Potential Triggering Life Events:

-The recent loss or threat of loss of a friend or family member through serious illness, death, separation, divorce or change in residence.

I cannot emphasize the importance of calling a counseling center if you are concerned about your son, daughter, grandson or granddaughter. There are things that you can do to help them through these very vulnerable years.

There is a wonderful app called, “A Friend Asks” that I high recommend. It was developed by The Jason foundation. JFI is a nationally recognized leader in youth suicide awareness and prevention. This app is for teens that are considering suicide and for their friends. It help teens help their friends that might be considering suicide. An excellent app.

Here are some numbers that might come in handy. Hopefully you’ll never need them, but please keep them just in case.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline


The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention


The Suicide Prevention Resource Center


Friday Waypoints- 02-21-19

Podcast I’m Listening to

I’ve been a big fan of Sam Harris because of the work he’s done on Mindfulness. He has an app called “Waking Up” and a Podcast entitled, “Making Sense.” This past week the podcast episode #147 was an interview with Stephen Fry. Fry is an English actor, comedian, writer and activist. If you’ve listened to the Harry Potter books, it’s his voice you will hear.

Harris and Fry spend much of this podcast talking about mindfulness and meditation. There are literally thousands of podcasts to listen to while you’re driving.  If you’re looking for a few to follow, consider these:

  • Optimal Health Daily
  • The Daily Meditation Podcast
  • Happiness Podcast
  • Meditate and Move
  • Optimal Living Daily
  • Stoic Meditations

Lessons from My Clients

Most of my practice has been with Teenagers and their families. What I have observed and seen with many of these teens is that life can be a struggle. In fact, it can overwhelm them. Many are experiencing anxiety and mild depression and they can’t seem to shake it. It’s partly due to social media and technology, but it’s mostly due to cultural influences. What I mean by that is the that teens are affected by the things we value and spend our time doing. Teenagers today are under a lot of stress. They struggle with finding meaning in life. Life is getting more and more complicated at home, at school, in the community, and with peers.

What I relearned this past week is that sometimes our teens simply need to talk to someone about their worries and fears. I saw the burden lifted as a wonderful young man simply talked and I listened.

I Lost a Good Friend This Past Week

There are few things that bring things into perspective like losing a lifelong friend. Life really is short. Without going into details, most of my adolescence was coupled with him. I admired him, I never felt judgment from him. We supported each other through our hardships, but these past few years he was in unbearable pain.

I am sad for many reasons. This is a great loss for many people. He was an intelligent man and for many years, was full of life. I will miss him.

And as we do with many of our losses, we live with them. I will live with this loss.  I will live. “Life is to be lived,” as the saying goes. And it is short and fragile. Remembering that, and remembering my dear friend’s life, will hopefully inspire me as it did when he was alive.


Living in the Gray Area

Tuesday Thoughts: Living in the in-between

Recently, I’ve been talking to people about the gray area, that in-between where things are both, rather than either-or. In Dialectical Behavior Therapy (or DBT, for short), significant time is given to this subject. In fact, the first word, “dialectical,” means “the process of thought by which apparent contradictions are seen to be part of a higher truth.” The classic DBT example is that you can be doing your best, and want to do better. That AND part is very important, because if it’s changed to a BUT (“I’m doing the best that I can, but I want to do better”), the first part of the sentence doesn’t really matter. All you’re left with is “I want to do better,” which, as a goal, isn’t meaningful, measurable, or specific.

So much of life is lived in this in-between, gray area. As I trained in DBT, I realized that it was a natural fit for me, because I have long been able to see both sides of an argument at the same time. (In college, I had a boyfriend who told me I was impossible to argue with because I “wouldn’t pick a side” and argued all the sides at once. I think of that as a skill, now!) One of the primary tasks of the therapist is to be able to see where others are coming from. Often, this means that I have to understand a viewpoint that is not my own. In the room in couples therapy, it’s very important for the therapist to be able to see both parties sides. The common belief that the therapist is going to tell the other party all the things they’re doing wrong isn’t what therapy is about—I’m there to be on the side of your partnership, not one partner over the other.

Polarization seems to be a common malady now. The gray area leaves room for compromise, whereas the poles just serve to pull us further apart. Compromise doesn’t mean turning away from your values, or abandoning your ideals. It means finding common ground based on the desire to solve a particular problem. And, ultimately, isn’t that what we’re trying to do—solve problems? Whether they’re problems in your work life, your relationships, or with your children, looking for the gray area can open up solutions that would otherwise be impossible to see.

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

Friday Waypoints- 02/15/19

Book I’m Reading

“Spirituality is waking up,” writes Anthony De Mello in his book “Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.” He then follows with, “Most people, even though they don’t know it, are asleep.” Wow, that got my attention!

I have been fascinated and intrigued with different definitions of spirituality, most because it is difficult to define. I like De Mello’s definition. I’m not sure where this book is leading me, but I’m open to it. I’ll never grow, or should I say wake up, without an openness and curiosity about life and mysteries it has waiting for us.

My Circle of Friends

A friend commented that, “our circle is getting smaller.” She meant, of course, our circle of friends. It wasn’t a negative statement or observation. I think she meant that as we get older, our friendships become more intentional. I remember hearing this for the first time from a mentor while in graduate school. Dr. Timothy Johnson talked about the need to divest ourselves from the clutter and things that we have collected during our life.  

This week I decided to “let go” of a couple of friends from my past. There is a peace that comes from this process. Maybe it makes things simpler and after all, who doesn’t crave simplicity. But in fact, you don’t really need all the friends that you have. Many aren’t really friends. I’m not talking about bad people. The two people that I “un-friended” are wonderful people. They are fellow pilgrims and struggle to live out their lives with all of the the noise and chaos that it presents. Maybe we outgrew each other. It’s now a smaller circle of friends, real friends.

On a Much Lighter Note

I spent time this week preparing for a slide presentation of my trips to Canyonlands National Park. The presentation will be at Quest Outdoors on Shelbyville Road, on March 7th, at 7 pm. My first trip there was 11 years ago when I did a 10-day road trip through Utah. I did a drive-by visit that first time, but I fell in love with the place. Since then, I’ve explored the canyons and slip rock numerous times and I hope to introduce you to a very special place.

If You have a Teenager You Better Know about Vaping

Alarming Trends:

-Currently 1 in 4 Middle School and High School students have used a vape pen or e-cigarette, 1 in 6 over the past 30 days.

-There is evidence to suggest that e-cigarette use increases the risk of using combustible cigarettes.

-Nearly 6 in 10 cigarette users also us e-cigarettes. This is a two-way relationship.

-A recent study found that teens who use e-cigarettes are 4 times more likely to begin smoking tobacco cigarettes within 18 months when compared to teens that do not vape.

-E-Cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco product among teenagers.

What are Vape Pens or E-Cigarettes?

They are electronic nicotine delivery devices, plain and simple. They come in many flavors and are called by various names: e-cigs, vape pens, e-hookahs, vapes, and mods just to name a few. Make no mistake, if your teen is using a vape pen, it is delivering nicotine.

Why are E-Cigarettes so Popular with Teens?

Three reasons:

1. Curiosity.

2. Flavors. 8 of 10 teen users use flavored e-cigarettes. In a recent study, the primary reason that teens use is because “they come in flavors that I like.

3. Teens believe that e-cigarettes are safer. 1 in 5 teens believe that e-cigarettes cause no harm.

Are E-Cigarettes Harmful to Teens?

Simply put, YES!

-Nicotine disrupts the development of brain circuits that control attention and learning.

-Nicotine use by teens can puts them at risk for mood disorders and permanently lowering their impulse control.

-The nicotine in e-cigarettes affects development of the brain’s reward system, making them more susceptible to addiction to other drugs.

-Although e-cigarettes are safer than combustible cigarettes, there are still many questions being asked about the health risks of e-cigarette aerosol. There is no question, however, that nicotine exposure poses a major health risk for teens.

What Can You Do?

First, do not be hoodwinked. If your teen is using e-cigarettes, they are using nicotine.

Second, treat them as combustible cigarettes and let them know that you know!

Third, prohibit the use of e-cigarettes by your teens. I understand that this is not going to be easy, but you have to start by setting limits. You can randomly use a urine test to hold them accountable.

Fourth, educate them about e-cigarettes.

Fifth, if you have tried everything, enroll them in our Stop Vaping-Education Group at True North Counseling. This group is called: Salvage and is somewhat of an acronym for Stop Vaping Group Education. Salvage means: to preserve something from potential loss or adverse circumstances. We want to preserve the health and welfare of your teens. Call 502-777-7525 for more information.

Book Review: Daring Greatly

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, by Brené Brown

This is a book that I listened to on audio. (Sometimes spending an immense amount of time in the car can be positive!) For those unfamiliar, Brené Brown is a PhD in Social Work whose research primarily focuses on shame and guilt.

Daring Greatly covers an incredibly wide cross-section of human life, including education, work, parenting, gender and connectedness. If anything, the book falters when it tries to cover too much ground—her research about men and vulnerability is particularly interesting, and deserves its own book. (If you’re intrigued by the inclusion of vulnerability at work, you may be interested in reading her newer book, Dare to Lead.) But on to the “guts” of the book:

In one of her early books, Brown writes, “Shame corrodes the very part of us that believes we are capable of change.” As a therapist, one of my fundamental beliefs is that, at every stage of life, each of us is capable of change. Since I read I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t), I’ve been talking to clients frequently about shame versus guilt, and importantly, sitting with uncomfortable feelings and being vulnerable.

Brown defines “vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure,” and goes on to say, “Vulnerability is not weakness, and the uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure we face every day are not optional. Our only choice is a question of engagement. Our willingness to own and engage with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our fear and disconnection.” 

How powerful would it be if people could recognize their own vulnerability and the vulnerability of others! John Gottman, another therapist and researcher writes about “bids for connection,” and how meeting those bids for connection is what strengthens relationships.

How can you increase your engagement and live with courage and vulnerability this week?

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

Disclaimer: I purchased this book with my own funds and no expectations from the author and/or publisher for a positive review.

Tuesday Thoughts: The Importance of Community

For several years now, I’ve been a supervisor of pre-licensed social workers and marriage & family therapists working on their two years of post-graduate training. Over the past year or so, I’ve realized that there often arises a theme for the supervision I do each week. This past week’s theme was community.

Community connections keep us mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy.  Often, when people hear community, they think of the neighborhood they live in, or perhaps their immediate family. However, community, like success, is how you define it. Humans are relational creatures. Even the most introverted among us benefits—psychologically, physiologically, emotionally, and spiritually—from being connected to a community.

This becomes infinitely clear when a person is separated from community. My first year of teaching was spent in the middle of nowhere (Maine) where I was teaching writing, doing improvisational comedy, and cooking, all while living as a house parent with twelve 8 and 9 year-old girls. While there was another house parent, she and I had opposite shifts. As it was a summer program for children at high levels of performing arts expertise, almost all of the students came from very affluent backgrounds. There were very few students of the same, or even a similar, religious and cultural background as me. I remember crying in the director’s office, feeling very alone and separate in my ‘different-ness.’ It was in that moment that I realized how important community is.

In building or discovering your own community, consider how you might connect on multiple levels:

  • Intellectual: Can you join a book club or discussion group? Your local library or independent book shop may serve as a resource.
  • Physical: There are hundreds of recreational leagues for adults all over most major cities. Maybe you want to play a sport you played growing up. Maybe this is the time to try something completely different! (Your local YMCA is a good starting place.) Even if you’re not a “class person,” consider attending group exercise classes at your gym, or look for Groupons to try a completely new activity.
  • Spiritual and/or Religious: Most faith communities have “newcomers groups,” where you can meet many like-minded people. If you’re not inclined toward organized religion, Meetup.org has lots of groups that seek to explore philosophy.
  • Hobbies: Again, this is a great opportunity to seek out local businesses, which often have groups based on their products. Yarn shops often have knitting groups; outdoor gear shops often have hikes, etc.
  • Volunteering: Volunteermatch.org has a great search engine that can match you with your interests, availability, and amount of time you have available. Through volunteering, you can find people with similar interests. Even if you don’t cultivate a connection outside of the volunteer experience, volunteering gives you an ongoing community.

How will you connect with your community this week?

Jennifer Kendrick

AAMFT Approved Supervisor
Kentucky Board Approved MFT Supervisor

Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Clinical Social Worker in KY
Licensed Clinical Social Worker in IN
cell: 502.203.9197

Friday Waypoints- 02/01/19

My Choice of Music this Morning-

Sometimes I need music to comfort me. Most therapists experience a lot of chaos in their work from week to week. I’m sure you can imagine. With new therapists that I train, I preach a lot about “self-care.” I encourage them to do the things that help them decompress and recharge. That could be going to the movies, hanging out with their friends and family members, reading mystery novels, exercising, as well as enjoying hobbies, crafts, and yes, music. One of the best gifts anyone has given me over the past decade or two was from my son, Trevor, who left me his iTunes music library when he left to live in Colorado. I couldn’t believe what I was listening to. Wonderful music. It changed my life. Who hasn’t listened to “Tables for Glass,” by Jimmy Eat World, and hasn’t been changed? “It happens too fast, to make sense of it, to make it last.” Life does happen too fast!

And on this cold winter morning, I’m listening to Libera. This is a Boys Choir. And at this moment, I’m listening to Voca Me. And my psyche, my soul, is being soothed. It’s mostly in Latin, but the sounds and the harmony comfort me.

Book I’m Reading-

I’ve been reading “Finally Full, Finally Slim,” by Lisa R. Young PhD this week. I was intrigued by the description of her book in the New York Times article, For Real Weight Control, Try Portion Control.”

I have often thought that one of the problems that we experience in this country is the size of our portions. It has been my firm belief that utilizing a “½ portion size” method is a very effective weight-loss strategy. In other words, consider the portions that you want and halve them. The same approach can work in a restaurant. Split your meal with someone else. Lisa Young does a pretty good job of emphasizing the fact that portion sizes have grown dramatically over the decades and we need to consider downsizing them. She also points out that it isn’t just the size of the portions, it’s the type of calorie that we are eating. Most of the book is common sense and there isn’t a lot of new information in it, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that we are eating too much!

Ice Ribbons and Geodes-

I couldn’t wait to get back home from my trip to Colorado to spend time with my peeps and get into the Jefferson Memorial forest. My hike this past weekend seemed to lift all of the travel burdens and all of the weight of local and national news. Hiking isn’t for everyone, but for me, it’s my therapy, my church, my muse, my meditation, and my support group. I look forward to hiking in it for the next 30 years (I will be 92!).

For those of you that are familiar with Christian Scriptures, there is the parable of the farmer that is plowing in the field and comes across a treasure and sells everything to buy the field. At times, I feel like that farmer while hiking in the Jefferson Memorial forest. At times I find bird feathers along the trail from turkeys, crows, blue jays and hawks. Their little gifts to me. The geodes in the streams are exciting to find, take home and crack open. And in the winter months, the Ice Ribbons bloom. They are so delicate and beautiful. I see one and get excited because I know there are likely many more. I was not disappointed this past weekend.