How to Help Teens Cope with Stress and Loss

During these stressful times, it’s important for teens to have an outlet for their struggles. Here are some ideas for how parents can help. 

“When a young person might have a first thought of suicide between when they make a suicide attempt, it can be as short as 20 minutes,” says Shana Burgess, director of JoCo Mental Health Center in Kansas City. 

This is a sobering statistic. Twenty minutes is the very short and very real time interval between initial thought and action for a young teen struggling with dark thoughts. For two moms, this short interval is a harsh reality, having had lost their two teens to suicide. 

A Family Tragedy

BJ Thomas Wilson and Sylvia Harrell are the mothers of  Regan Wilson and Chad Harrell, two teens whose lives ended far too early due to internal struggles caused by external pressures. Wilson explains that in December of 2017, her daughter Regan was struggling with immense pressures of passing her CNA exam, while Harrell describes the day her son got into trouble and wasn’t allowed to attend a party, which angered him immensely. 

Their lives are honored through #GiveMe20, an initiative that works directly with teens with the mission of preventing tragedies such as these from occurring again.  

“The reason I am passionate about #GiveMe20 is because at the end of the day, we’re just two moms who suffered tremendous heartbreak,” Wilson says. “We are rising up from the ashes to try to make a difference.”

What is #GiveMe20?

The #GiveMe20 initiative asks teens to create and decorate a #GiveMe20 box that contains memories and messages that can be used to uplift during a period of dark thoughts as well as contact information as a reminder of who to call for help. 

“#GiveMe20 is an opportunity for us to offer them tools, thoughts, memories and dreams to carry them through any dark moments,” Wilson says. “#GiveMe20 started kind of as a pledge asking kids to promise that if they found themselves in a dark moment, that they would step back and focus on reminding themselves about what they have to live for rather than looking for a way to end their life.”

As teens create their boxes, they participate in multiple activities that result in anecdotes and reminders of the good things in their lives. This includes writing down what they love, have to live for and the people they pledge to reach out to during any dark times.  

“We are hoping that coupling an in-person class with a box of momentos and cherished items that they can have in their hand will give the kids the tools they need to get through 20 minutes of darkness and find the light,” Harrell says.

#GiveMe20 strives to put the proper tools in the hands of teens so they can cope with stress, anxiety and other pressures that can induce dark thoughts. These boxes serve as a reminder of all the wonderful things and people in their life worth living for.

“In about 50% of individuals who attempt suicide, there is not a known mental health condition,” Burgess says. “We need to be very aware of anyone around us and have that connection and outreach with people in order to help and provide support.”


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Written by Kelly Gilmore

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