As a parent, your teenager’s physical health and mental well-being are of the utmost importance. While the idea that your teen might be suicidal is frightening, suicidal thoughts, comments, and behavior should always be taken extremely seriously. In order to do so, it is important to be able to recognize warning signs of teenage suicide and know what the next steps should be if you feel your child is in danger of hurting him or herself.
Though all teenagers don’t present with the same warning signs, the following are commonly seen in those who are considering teenage suicide. Recognizing the warning signs, often a cry for help, is the best way to prevent suicide.
- Making jokes about committing suicide and/or talking about killing oneself.
- Making comments that portray hopelessness or defeat, such as “The world would be better off without me” or “I’m out of options.”
- Making positive references to dying, such as “If I were to die, I’d be more popular.”
- Giving away belongings that hold special meaning.
- Isolation from other people, such as family and friends.
- Behavior that is inconsistent with one’s normal behavior. For instance, a happy, upbeat, outgoing teen all of a sudden is sad and withdrawn.
- Preoccupation with death and dying, such as writing about it or talking about it.
- Behavior that is self-destructive, such as reckless driving, drug use, or having unsafe sex.
Certain factors or issues may increase the likelihood of thoughts of teenage suicide. Again, it’s important to recognize these risk factors, which is a huge key to prevention.
- Mental health issue, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
- A prior suicide attempt.
- Family life that is abusive or unstable.
- History of being bullied.
- History of being sexually abused.
Parent participation in suicide prevention is a must. If your teenager makes a comment about suicide, take it seriously. Even if you don’t believe your teenager will follow through, it’s important to make sure that you do.
Discuss Suicidal Thoughts
Encourage your teenager to talk about any suicidal thoughts she might have. Talking about it can decrease suicidal feelings and help your teen feel a sense of relief as she shares her feelings. Even if you’re not quite sure your teenager is suicidal, the best way to find out is to ask.
While it may seem disconcerting to begin the conversation, you can get the ball rolling by saying something as simple as, “You haven’t been acting like yourself lately. What’s going on?” Ask questions such as how you can help, when the feelings started, and so forth.
Remain Calm and Offer Encouragement
It’s important that your teen feel you can emotionally handle whatever he shares with you. It’s also important that he feel you can help him. Tell your teenager that you’re there for him, that you care about him, and that you want to help. The important thing is that you offer hope.
Take Safety Measures
If your child has expressed thoughts of suicide, make sure anything that can be used to hurt herself is put away. Examples include bottles of medication, razors, guns, and knives.
Assess the Risk of Teenage Suicide
Determine how severe your teenager’s suicidal thoughts are, if she has a suicide plan, and if so, how specific is it.
Seek Professional Help
Crisis lines can give advice and referrals for treatment. The type of professional help needed will depend on the circumstances. Whether it be counseling, in-patient treatment, or a consultation with a doctor for medication, help should be sought to prevent teenage suicide. The professionals at Rockland’s Behavioral Response Team are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to you or your teen about anything that might be causing stress or emotional trauma. We can also come out to your home to assist if necessary. All of our services are free and confidential. Call us day or night at 845-517-0400. Don’t wait, get help.