Club Story: Tuning In to Scary Conversations

September 9-15, 2018 is National Suicide Prevention Week. On the ClubX Blog, we will be providing resources and encouragement for all those who work with youth. Today’s Club Story comes from Stacey Braund Busby, Social and Emotional Wellness Initiative Director at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak to a counselor at any time.

The work we choose, which is to be with youth, gets harder every day.  Topics like bullying, rape, mental health and suicide get more predominant as time passes.  It may seem to take you aback to hear me say that this makes me happy.  These topics absolutely are not new, they simply haven’t been something we’ve as a society been willing to talk about.

With the Netflix series like “13 Reasons Why”, our youth of surprisingly young ages are tuning in, relating to, and asking questions about these graphic and uncomfortable topics.  As adults it would be easy to turn to the question of “why are these children being exposed to this at such a young age?!” and project blame, allowing room for stepping back from the solution our youth so desperately need.  They need caring adults to be willing to take the risk to step into these conversations with them.  Conversations that put intentional ears to the thoughts, questions and struggles our youth face.


These topics of violence and emotional, social and physical trauma are tough but real life!  Mental health, bullying, rape and suicide are not something “crazy”, they are the real life of our youth.  Let’s be honest, it’s the real life of our culture and society at all levels.  Ignoring this pain and suffering will beget more pain and suffering.  At Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, I strongly encourage our staff to tune in and offer support rather than stigma around these circumstances.  If we remain open to these scary conversations, we might just mitigate the effects of trauma they experience or save the life of one (or more) of our youth.

To equip our staff with the tools to step into these opportunities to possibly change the trajectory of a youth’s life, we work to train all staff in the Suicide Prevention training framework of “QPR: Question, Persuade, Refer”.


We spend most of our time on the first step, asking the question.  The question being, “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”  The question can come in many forms, but in each and every training when we take turns in the room to read the various questions on my slide presentation that ask a person whether or not they are considering suicide, our words stick in our throat and the room gets quiet and tense.  Not only do we never want to be faced with asking this question, we never want the answer to be “Yes”.  So we practice getting the words through the stuck throat.  There is no perfect way to do it, but you can do it, as long as you are asking with intention of receiving the true answer which requires being present with our fear.  If we step into our fear and allow it to take over, we’ll miss the opportunity and not ask, or we’ll ask in in a way that ensures a “No” to keep ourselves safe. A example of this is saying something like “You’re not thinking of doing something crazy are you?!”  I can almost hear the the door of hope slamming shut from there.  Please know that asking someone about their thoughts of suicide will not plant the seed.  That’s  a myth.  No one wants to die.  Those thinking of suicide see it as their only option.  It is our opportunity to sow that seed of hope that they just might be missing another option for healing to stop the suffering.

As for the second step to persuade, I reassure our staff with humor in my voice that if you are a Youth Development Professional, you do this ALL THE TIME.  You know the art of persuasion to get youth to go to Power Hour rather than stay in the gamesroom or to reconcile with a peer when they’d rather be angry and get back.  Persuasion is no different with suicide prevention.  In this situation, you simply persuade them to consider hope and possibility of other answers and help.

Our Social & Emotional Wellness Team has worked diligently to create personal relationships with strong mental health providers in our area so that the third step, to refer, is a simple process that includes a warm hand-off rather than simply giving a phone number to the family to call.

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Please know that you don’t have to have all the answers in difficult conversations, but knowing where to find resources or where to safely send our members and families is essential in reducing the risk related to exposure to these sensitive topics. Please also help empower our families to want to create this presence for our members as well as equip them with some tools on where to turn for answers.

Finally, THANK YOU for being warriors for our children and teens!!  Like I said, the work you choose gets harder every day, thank you for choosing to stand with our youth!

Boys & Girls Club staff can download the new Suicide Prevention & Awareness Guide on for information, warning signs, and targeted resource lists.


Stacey is responsible for the vision and implementation of a new initiative+ at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley that intentionally addresses the effects of adverse childhood experiences on our members through staff training, community connections and member and family interventions and referrals, working closely with community partners.

If you or someone you know is in need of support, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to speak to a counselor at any time.


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