“Not my kid.”
This phrase is all too common among adults who don't want to think a teenager they know may be contemplating suicide, a local youth pastor said recently.
“I think most people, they never think someone they know actually thinks about this. They think ‘not my kid,'” Andy Rauschkolb, pastor of high school ministries at Crossings Community Church, told me.
Rauschkolb said some people don't know the signs that a young person is thinking of taking his or her own life, but according to statistics, the majority of teens who commit suicide tell someone directly or hint about it.
The young pastor said Crossings hopes to help educate metro-area residents on the topic of teen suicide. The church will host a free April 3 seminar in which a guest speaker will discuss the myths and misconceptions about this subject.
Rauschkolb said the topic often is considered “taboo” but hits close to home for many in the metro area.
“Obviously Oklahoma City, specifically the north Oklahoma City and Edmond areas, have been hit pretty hard by teen suicide over the last several years,” he said. “We were thinking, as a church, how can we reach out to our community and make a difference?”
Rauschkolb said author and international speaker Rich Van Pelt will be guest speaker. In addition to dispelling teen suicide myths and misconceptions, Van Pelt will share information that people should know if they are faced with a teen in crisis.
Rauschkolb said he heard Van Pelt speak at a conference for youth pastors, and the author shared information that should be helpful to parents, grandparents, school leaders, clergy and others. Van Pelt is the author of the book “Intensive Care: Helping Teenagers in Crisis.”
Rauschkolb said some people think that by talking about suicide, teenagers might be more likely to attempt it, but he said Van Pelt says the opposite is true.
“Rich took the stigma off the topic,” Rauschkolb said, referring to the author's presentation for youth ministry leaders.
“He speaks to you in a very matter-of-fact, plain and comfortable way. He makes it clear that you don't have to have a counseling degree or Ph.D. to help someone contemplating suicide. I came away with some very practical knowledge that everyone — adults and students — should know, because this information might just save a teen's life.”
Rauschkolb said in addition to the free seminar, Van Pelt is set to speak at a local youth pastors' dinner, talk at chapel services at Crossings School and meet with a local school district's crisis management team.
Van Pelt's presentation will kick off the church's spring speaker series.