Those who do not believe teen suicide is a concern will be surprised to learn that twelve teenagers die of suicide every day and that for every successful attempt, there are another 25 failed attempts. The overwhelming amount of stress placed on teenagers in modern society coupled with problems at home or bullying can lead some down a dark path. In order to prevent suicide, you need to be able to recognize the symptoms and approach the problem in a supportive and non-confrontational manner so that your child is able to communicate the underlying issues making him or her feel the need to end his or her life.
A Wealth of Misconceptions Concerning Suicide
We are greatly misguided in our assumptions concerning teen suicide today, and the first step toward prevention is to educate ourselves and get our facts straight. Suicide is now the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults, so it is a problem that exists and is not going away. Here are some of the misconceptions people have about teen suicide.
- Suicidal behavior can become worse if you start a conversation on the topic. In reality, you can greatly reduce your child’s risk by talking about teen suicide in a supportive manner and reinforcing that you are there if your child is feeling depressed, anxious or lost. These are normal reactions to some events in life or situations such as bullying or stress and it is possible to overcome depression and anxiety.
- Threatening suicide is nothing more than a plea for attention. While those who make their intent to commit suicide are often looking for a reason not to go through with their plans, it is important not to dismiss a suicide threat or to address it in a confrontational manner. If your child has revealed that he or she has these feelings, it is time to address those feelings with a qualified medical professional or psychologist.
- You are not as qualified as trained professionals to know whether your child is depressed or suicidal. While psychologists are more qualified to treat the underlying issues behind suicidal thoughts and actions, it is close family members who are best able to detect changes in behavior that serve as red flags.
Signs that Your Child May be Considering Suicide
Many families miss the signs of an upcoming suicide attempt because they are not paying attention or do not recognize the symptoms. If your child’s sleep or eating habits change, he or she withdraws from friends and family members, his or her grades begin to suffer or you notice any violent behavior toward him or herself or others, you should take action in the most supportive way possible.
The following are all symptoms of depression or anxiety, which are most often linked to suicidal thoughts.
- Bullying others or becoming the victim of bullying. Mobile technology has made it possible for cyber bullies to continue to harass their victims on a constant basis.
- Alcohol or drug use. Substance abuse is normally one of the more telling signs that your child is suffering from depression or anxiety.
- Low self-esteem, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness and guilt over a tragedy.
- Your child threatens to harm him or herself. Never assume that a threat is idle. These are cries for help that need to be answered.
Talking to your children about suicide and letting them know you are approachable are excellent ways to prevent a suicide attempt. It is important that you never made your child feel judged or punished for admitting to these types of feelings. Instead, it is important to reinforce the fact that he or she is not alone and that he or she is cared for.
The following resources may be helpful if you believe your child is at risk.