If you think a youth you know may be at risk for suicide, it can be a very alienating knowledge. You may be struggling with questions like: Should I tell anyone? How do I help them? How do I know if they are just having a hard time or really suicidal? You are not alone with these questions. Sadly there is a real stigma around suicide and especially youth suicide, so many people don’t know what to do. Here are some brief facts and tips.
Suicide in teens is a very serious problem across the country. In fact, it is the third leading cause of death in teens. A study in 2013 revealed that 17% of high school students have seriously contemplated and 8% have attempted suicide.
You can prevent suicide. In most cases, there will be warning signs leading up to the suicide or suicide attempt. Please pay close attention and do not be afraid to tell someone or to get help. Keeping these signals a secret will only hurt the teen and their loved ones.
These are some of the most obvious warning signs:
- A suicide note or plans. This can be something written, spoken, or posted online.
- Direct suicidal threats like “I am going to kill myself” as well as indirect comments like “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up again.”
- A preoccupation with death in literature, songs, imagery, conversation, etc.
- Giving away precious possessions and other gestures that have the appearance of making “final arrangements.”
- Suddenly and prolonged changes in behavior, feelings, appearance, friends, eating habits or thoughts.
Talk to the teen about suicide in a friendly and non-judgemental way. While broaching the subject is never a comfortable one, it will not plant the idea in a kid’s mind if it wasn’t there already. Instead, it will provide an opportunity for open and honest communication.
Often when something so dark and scary is out in the open, it becomes a lot more manageable. Suicide is usually considered because a situation or problem in the teen’s life seems so huge that there is no other way out. When you talk to them see if you can get to that situation that seems so insurmountable for them. Helping them work through it can develop the crucial problem-solving skills that will help them get through this and many other issues in life.
There are resources available to you and your teen if they are in crisis and need immediate help or just need to talk. Here are a few of them:
Remember you are not the only parent to worry about your teen and ask these questions. You are not alone. Your teen is not the first one to need help, and they are not alone. We are here to help.