According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide ranks 10th among causes of death, claiming 40,600 lives. These are only the reported suicides, so the numbers for unreported suicides may skew much higher. When you look at suicide attempt statistics, it’s clear that it’s a major problem among all age groups. It’s especially hard when you’re the parent of a pre-teen, tween, or teenager who is having emotional issues. Learning how to recognize the signs of a suicide attempt, resources to seek help, and how to pick up the pieces after dealing with suicide attempts are all important aspects of handling this issue.
Recognize the Signs of Suicidal Attempts
It’s hard to say whether your child will reach out for help before or after making a suicide attempt. Suicide is driven by many factors, from mental illness to bullying at school, so being aware of everything going on in your kid’s head is difficult. This is particularly true when you’re dealing with hormonal teenagers, as it’s hard to figure out which part is connected with the terrible teens, and which is indicative of major mental instability.
Another way to look for suicide attempt signs is by looking through your child’s search history. In most web browsers, you have a history option that saves the links of any web page you visit, as well as any searches conducted on the web browser. While a tech savvy teen can get around you seeing their history by deleting their history or using a browser feature which provides an incognito mode, it’s worth looking for problematic keywords in the search.
Some phrases to look for include is attempted suicide illegal, is attempted suicide a crime, failed suicide attempt stories, celebrity suicide attempts, and other similar keywords. They may be looking for a friend, but in most cases it’s time to take a serious look at your child’s behavior before they get failed suicide attempts under their belt.
Look for physical signs of attempts, such as cuts on their wrists or missing prescription medication around this house. You won’t always be able to see physical signs of suicide attempts, but it pays off to pay close attention and note any physical changes.
When it comes to behavioral signs of suicide attempts, there are a few things to look for. One of the biggest signs is apathy and disinterest in everything going on around them. These are hallmark signs of depression, which is a common mental disorder that may lead to suicide attempts. If your apathetic child suddenly gets a big burst of energy, it could be a sign of motivation or it could be a sign of suicidal planning. Some suicidal people feel increased energy after they decide how they’re going to make the attempt.
Pay attention to their circle of friends as well. If some of their social group are suicide attempt survivors, then it’s possible they shared their attempted suicide stories with your child. That may bring negative thought patterns into your kid’s head, leading to attempts of their own.
Understanding the Causes of Suicide Attempts
You don’t understand what drives your teen to suicide, but it could be one of any number of reasons. One of the biggest problems is that the child sees no other alternative that’s better than death. This is especially true in cases where the teen is getting relentlessly bullied at school and online. A few decades ago, there was relief from bullying within the home. With the Internet these days, the bullying continues through social networks, texting, and other communication channels. Being picked on day in and day out makes it hard for your child to deal with school and the bullies, especially if they are being bullied for being significantly different in some way from the rest of the crowd.
Mental illness is difficult to diagnose in a teen due to the hormonal changes they endure throughout puberty, but it’s important to look for any classic signs of mental illness. Depression, bipolar, and other mental illness can lead to suicidal thoughts, ideation, and attempts.
Some anti-depressants may also cause suicidal attempts due to the increased energy given by the pills. After spending so long without any sort of energy or motivation, anti-depressants provide a boost of both. However, it doesn’t necessary do anything to stop the depressed outlook on life, so they simply have the energy to make a plan and follow through with it.
In some cases, teenagers dealing with gender and sexuality identity issues turn to suicide due to bigotry from their peers or other people in their environment. They may also be worried about you or other family members being able to accept their sexuality. Awareness for these concerns are rising, especially as LGBT suicide statistics are made available.
How to Help Your Suicidal Child
So one way or another, you find out your child has made suicide attempts. It’s hard not to panic, but they need you more than they ever have before. There are a few ways to address suicide attempts from your child, as well as ways to get them help.
One of the first things to do is simply listen and find out why they feel that things are bad and they can’t see a way that they get better. Don’t belittle or invalidate their feelings, even if you don’t understand why they feel things are as bad as they are. As a teenager, they often don’t have the ability to see the big picture. Once you understand what’s driven them to extreme measures, you can being to incorporate an adult perspective that should help.
Get your child seeing a therapist as quickly as possible, ideally one who specializes in suicidal teens. They may or may not end up being medicated if they are mentally ill, so make sure you pay special attention to your child if they do. Suicide is listed as a side effect on these pills because they give enough energy to act, but not enough to feel better emotionally until later.
Consider helping your teen find online support groups. Sometimes facing people face to face and talking about suicide is too difficult, stressful, or triggering for your teen. Find an online support forum and encourage them to participate.
Don’t get frustrated helping your teen. Depression makes it hard to even get out of bed in the morning, let alone do anything finicky and hard. When you reduce the barrier to entry for your kid, it helps them get the help they need.
Arrange a reduced workload with the school, if possible. Your teen’s goals should be to get better and take any directed action they can to start moving toward recovery. While school is important, school is not more important than mental stability on the part of your teen. If the school won’t cooperate, consider home schooling your child.
Don’t take chances with bully issues. If your teen is bullied to the point of suicide by people at school, at the very least they should have their school changed. If the bullying is malicious in nature and intentionally designed to drive someone to suicide, it’s possible that a criminal trial may be an option for an action.
Read up as much as possible on suicide attempt stories, particularly those that explain the mindset of the person who made the attempt. This helps you understand where your teen is coming from, and gives you common ground to help them out. They want to know that someone is in their court and understanding as much as possible about what they’re going through.
Recovery is a long, hard road for both you and your teen. However, there’s almost always a way to pull through and address all of your teen’s issues and present alternative actions that are much less permanent solutions than suicide.