Teen Suicide: Know the signs of trouble and strategies for preventing a tragedy
It is not easy being a teenager in today's society, and suicides have become all too common. Parents worry about their teens every day, but when there are signs that they are having suicidal thoughts, it is imperative to take immediate action. The statistics show that there are many reasons to be concerned about depression and stress in teens, but there are some key long-term strategies that can have a significant impact on preventing these tragedies.
Know the signs of trouble in your teen
Helpguide notes that teens will not necessarily speak up and ask for help when they are depressed or having suicidal thoughts. However, there are some strong warning signs that signal a need for a parent, friend, or other concerned adult to take immediate action. If a teen in your life is talking about self-harm, dying, or suicide, is preoccupied with death and seems to have no hope for the future, you should be concerned.
Take immediate action if your teen is having suicidal thoughts
If your teen is withdrawing from others, in the midst of self-destructive behavior, and may be trying to get access to things like weapons or pills, you need to investigate further. In addition, if a teen in your life seems to be making efforts to get their affairs in order or is perhaps calm and finding ways to reach out and essentially say goodbye to loved ones, you need to take these issues seriously. You should start a conversation with the teen in question, showing that you care and noting your concerns.
You should be prepared to act quickly in this type of situation. If things have progressed to where the teen has a plan, a time frame, the means, and the intention to follow through with suicide, it is time to call for help. You can call 911, take the teen to the nearest emergency room, or call a local crisis center or suicide help line like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-800-SUICIDE. Do not leave the teen alone and make sure that potentially lethal objects are removed from the area.
Teen suicide is a serious problem in today's society
According to Teen Help, suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24 years of age, and it is a serious concern for children between the ages of 10 and 14 as well. Teens who attempt suicide once are highly likely to try again and teens who are Native American or gay are in a higher-risk group for suicide than other teen groups.
Additional risk factors related to teen suicide include childhood abuse, experiencing recent traumatic events, having a weak support system, access to a gun, being connected to other teen suicides, or experiencing a hostile school or social environment. It’s important to watch for changes in sleeping and eating habits, changes in behavior and school performance, and physical issues such as stomach aches, headaches, and other symptoms frequently related to emotional distress.
It’s also critical to be aware of the signs of drug abuse since substance abuse can play a role in a teen’s mental stability. Prescription drugs are typically most accessible to teenagers, so DrugRehab.org cautions us to be particularly careful with this type of potentially dangerous, habit-forming substance. Watch for abuse signs using the acronym ABCD:
●A = advise the dose; (use medication only as advised);
●B = beware of requests to share (do not share medication);
●C = control all pills and keep them in a supervised location;
●D = dispose of leftover medication safely
In terms of long-term prevention, parents need to make sure they are addressing anxiety or depression in a teen as soon as it arises. Listen and pay attention to your teen and don't dismiss talk of suicide as teen drama. Work to keep your teen physically active, as exercise can significantly help depression, and the Child Mind Institute notes that it's important to know your teen's friends , minimize conflict in the home, and stay connected to your teen.
It is critical that parents stay alert as their children hit the tween and teen years to watch for signs of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. When a teen's behaviors start to change significantly, or they begin to speak about ideas of suicide, it is imperative that you reach out for help immediately. Suicide is a leading cause of death in teens, so it is important to stay connected to your teen and help them address issues of stress, depression, addiction, or substance abuse early on to avoid the growing risk of a suicide attempt.