“I think that is where people get confused about the suicidal experience,” Stage said.

“You can tell people all day long that they have this future and they can’t see it. It doesn’t matter how surrounded by people you are. You feel so isolated and alone.”

Stage is not sure if social media has made things better or worse.

“To me, the internet is probably the most wonderful thing that ever entered my life,” she said. “But at 35, I know what my boundaries are. I know what is going to make me feel bad if I look at it.”

Children and teens may get overwhelmed by the constant pressure to post, to show only the positive.

“Maybe they haven’t figured out how to balance in-person social connection with the internet social connection,” Stage said. “We can use technology in good and bad ways and we can just do life in good and bad ways.”

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What she can understand is why suicide is such a risk for pre-teens and teens.

“I think that life as a teenager is even harder than life as an adult. When you are a teenager, you are feeling things for the first time,” she said. “You don’t know how you are going to solve that problem, whatever it might be. It doesn’t matter what it is, if it makes you feel hopeless, it makes you feel hopeless,” she said.

Stage remembers music was so much more important to her as a teen. “Every lyric would touch me and I would feel it so deeply.”

“There is this fear that if you talk about suicide or you talk about depression that sometimes somehow you’ll encourage a kid to do that. We know that that’s not the case.”

“There is this fear that if you talk about suicide or you talk about depression that sometimes somehow you’ll encourage a kid to do that. We know that that’s not the case.”

Oden, who volunteers at the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, said people may not take the time to listen to someone in distress.

“Teens, many of us, we don’t know how to listen, like truly listen to someone and be there for someone,” he said. “We just want to fix the problem. Listening to someone is the most important part.”

In the end, Oden’s pastor helped, by simply listening. For Stage, the help was more traditional, with regular therapy and medication. Now she’s married and has a four-month-old son. Oden is preparing to head to college at the University of Louisville.

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Look for the signals

“If someone is sending you invitations and you see those warning signs, just ask them point blank if they are suicidal,” Oden advised.

“That can be so, so difficult because there is this fear that the person will get mad at you or they will react in a bad way. But most suicidal people want that connection. Being asked is such a relief.”

Williams agreed. “You should always ask. If you are concerned or have a suspicion you should always ask,” she said.

It doesn’t give people ideas they didn’t have before, Plemmons said.

“I think there is this fear that if you talk about suicide or you talk about depression that sometimes somehow you’ll encourage a kid to do that,” he said. “We know that that’s not the case.”

Parents, teachers and friends can all help, he said.

“Talking to your kids about it’s OK to be mediocre, it’s OK to fail once in a while, and share experiences of your own feelings,” he advised.

“I think it’s really important to limit screen time whenever possible,” he added.

“Studies show that if someone is spending an inordinate amount of time on electronics or screen time, that does seem to be associated with increased rates of depression so paying attention to how much time I think your kids are utilizing social media, or computers, and things like that, I think is important too.”

Editor’s note: If you are looking for help, please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

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