Moody. Angry. Silent. Depressed. That can sound like every teenager at some point in time. The teenage years are difficult ones. It’s a time of struggle, learning, growing, and changing. However, it can also be a dangerous time for some teenagers. It can lead to problems with drugs and alcohol, unprotected sex, and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are approximately 157,000 kids between the ages of 10 and 24 who are treated in the emergency room annually for self-inflicted injuries. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in that age group also. Learn how Teenage Suicide Prevention Can Start With You!
Some parents are uncomfortable talking to their teenagers about topics such as suicide, depression, and mental illness. This hesitancy can leave a youth feeling isolated, alone, scared, and hopeless. Those feelings can lead teenagers to taking their own lives. But suicide prevention can start with parents who are aware of the issues and willing to communicate with their teenager about these problems. Good communication and awareness of what is happening in your teenager’s life are a big step in that prevention.
Communicating with your teenager can be as difficult as getting water from a rock sometimes. One word answers, closed doors, rolled eyes, and bored sighs may often accompany your attempts at conversation. However, there are ways to communicate with your child other than asking how their day was at school.
Meet them where they are. Teenagers today spend a lot of their time texting, on social media sites, or on their phones. Catch up with them there in order to connect. But keep it fun and open. Avoid embarrassing them, lecturing them, or making them feel like you are spying on them. Instead, share fun things with them, things you think they might like or be interested in. Limit how much time you are there so they don’t feel stalked by their parent.
Let your teen choose the activity. Rather than dragging your teenager along on activities you think are good, let them choose how you spend your time together. Teens who feel like you are willing to do things they like to do are more willing to share and open up.
Let them teach you. Teenagers are striving to gain independence and feel more adult. More often than not, they feel their parents always know more than they do. Find topics they can teach you about, such as technology, computers, music, new movies, or anything they are interested in. If they feel they know more than you on a topic, they are more apt to open up and talk.
Communication can be difficult at any age, but even more so between parents and teenagers. Remaining open, not judging, and listening to what your teenager is saying can all help keep the lines of communication open so you can be included in what is going on in their lives, including problems they are having.
Telling the difference between a moody teenager and one who is contemplating suicide isn’t always easy thing to do. Most parents are not mental health professionals. However, there are warning signs or red flags that can help parents tell that there is more going on than the usual teenage problems. The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) lists these as some of the signs parents should be aware of in adolescents who are contemplating suicide:
- Loss of appetite
- Ongoing trouble sleeping
- Running away from home
- Decline in school performance
- Shows no pleasure in life
- Lack of personal hygiene or caring about appearance
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Frequent mentions of death, loss or depression
While not all teens who are thinking about suicide show these symptoms, they can be a sign that they are thinking about it. Any time a child or teenager mentions hurting themselves or suicide, it should be taken seriously. Never assume that they are not serious or seeking attention.
Many recent studies conducted around the world have found a strong correlation between bullying and teen suicide. Many stories of bully-related suicides have made the news. While many parents consider bullying to be a part of growing up, the negative impact of being a victim of bullies leads to many issues, including suicide. A study done by Yale University has found that victims of bullies are 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide. Helping your teenager cope with bullying can be a big step towards suicide prevention.
Bullying can take place in many places and in many ways. Today’s teenagers are not only victims in school and away from home, but cyber bullying can reach them even inside their homes. Today teenagers are plugged in and connected almost everywhere they go, with computers, tablets, and smartphones. Social media, texting, and messaging can all play a part in bullying. There are many ways you can help your teen deal with bullying.
Listen to your child – Let them talk about what is happening, find out what they have done so far and how effective it was or wasn’t. Assure them that it isn’t their fault and that you don’t blame them for what is happening.
Get the authorities involved – If your teen is being bullied, let their teachers, staff, and principle know. If it is taking place off of school grounds, or cyberbullying is taking place, let the authorities know.
Help your child avoid isolation – Teens who travel in groups are less likely to get bullied. Help your teen find a church group, school group, or other group activity that allows them to make more friends and travel with others.
Bullying of any type can leave your teen feeling depressed, stressed, isolated, and helpless. Helping them solve the problem decreases the chances that your teenager will seek suicide as a solution.
Increasing awareness, helping teens, and suicide prevention are the main goal of many parents and organizations. Help is out there for teenagers who are thinking about suicide and parents who are worried about their teenager. In 2014 the American Association of Suicidology will be holding the 40th Annual National Suicide Prevention Week from September 8th – 14th. World Suicide Prevention Day will take place during that week on September 10th.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is an organization that was founded to provide free, confidential emotional support to anyone who is contemplating suicide or is under emotional distress. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you or your teenager need to talk to someone, you can call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a trained counselor.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention offers a great deal of information, help, statistics, funding, activities, and more on suicide prevention. It is an excellent resource for finding help, learning more, and helping others struggling.
Whether you are concerned about a teen who shows signs of trouble, or simply want to raise your awareness of suicide prevention, these organizations can help you. Parenting is a tough job and you don’t have all the answers. But when it comes to suicide prevention, it is important to have all the information you can find.