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Special Needs of Teens

Breaking the Static: Helping Teens Cope with Suicide

By Jade Chamness, Founder and CEO of Break Through the Static


Last fall we met sixteen-year-old Avery*, a high school junior in San Francisco. With tears in her eyes she approached our table at a local suicide prevention walk. Three months before, she told us, her best friend took her life. Avery found life difficult. She struggled with feelings of rejection because her best friend left her, of guilt for not saving her friends’ life, and of isolation because her overwhelming grief kept her from living a “normal” teenage life.

Every year, tens of thousands of teenagers in the United States lose a loved one to suicide, just like Avery. While they are strong in number, they are weak in institutional support and resources.

Studies suggest that teen suicide survivors who feel supported are more likely to survive the suicide and go on to lead healthier lives. Those teens lacking support may be more likely to suffer from depression, post-traumatic stress, substance misuse, and thoughts of suicide. As parents, teachers, coaches, and peers we have the unique opportunity to provide the support network teens affected by suicide need.

We are role models for youth. In our communities we are positioned to have a lasting impact on teens. We have the opportunity to lead by example and show teens how to be aware and comfortable with the pain and grief that exists in all our lives, to be available to listen and to support others in their pain, and to seek professional help when needed. Contrary to popular American culture, we are not islands and cannot successfully live like them. We need each other to navigate life’s ups and downs, and teens are no different.

Today Avery is telling a more hope-filled story. Because of her involvement with Break Through the Static, she has found a community. Avery co-facilitates a group of teens affected by suicide. They meet on a regular basis to hang out and talk openly about teen issues including grief and mental health.

While Avery (and her friends) recognize that life is a journey and bad days are inevitable, she now feels connected to others who understand her story and is able to acknowledge she did all she could to support her best friend. Avery and her friends say that through their tight-knit group they have found inspiration, peace, and hope.

*Names and details have been altered to protect client privacy.


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