Arizona teen suicide prevention hotline calls increase before holidays
PHOENIX — While many teens count down the days until their holiday breaks, some aren’t so excited.
“There’s a lot of misconception about holidays and even breaks being a time that kids are happy about being on vacation, that kids are happy about not being at school,” Nikki Kontz, clinical director for Teen Lifeline, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday.
Teen Lifeline is a nonprofit dedicated to teen suicide prevention that was founded in Phoenix in 1986.
Calls to the group’s crisis hotline typically increase in the weeks leading up to holiday breaks, Kontz said in a blog post.
One of the largest preventative factors for teen suicide is feeling connected to friends and family, Kontz said, but stress brought on by the holidays often leads to more distance.
“There’s still a lot of stress, and obligation and present-buying, and sometimes we forget to just be present, and that really goes a long way with our kids,” she said.
“It is that feeling of isolation and being disconnected, especially from adults in their life, that make the holidays and breaks really hard.”
Kontz recommends parents spend some quality time with their teens by putting phones down and spending less time worrying over gifts.
She said one of the best things to do over the break is have “some really good conversations, about what life is like for them and spending this time to get to know your kid.”
It’s a good idea to ask open-ended questions that avoid passing judgement, Kontz said — for example, saying “tell me about your semester” rather than asking about grades.
She said parents shouldn’t feel bad if teens would rather talk to friends because it’s part of the normal developmental process.
Another healthy behavior is to encourage teens to spend time with other adults in their lives besides parents, whether that’s extended family or community members.
“Other healthy adults in their life can be great sounding boards for our kids to be able to talk about some of those more difficult things that they’re scared to talk to mom and dad about,” she said.
The hotline is answered by teens every day from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. to facilitate peer-to-peer conversations.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Madison Spence contributed to this report.