Suicide is preventable. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.
Threats of suicide are a cry for help. Always take such statements, thoughts, behaviors, or plans very seriously. Any teen who expresses thoughts of suicide should be evaluated right away. Talk with your teen’s healthcare provider.
Beginning July 16, 2022, those in crisis or in need of assistance may dial 988, the new three-digit dialing code to immediately be connected with the National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline OR you may still call 1-800-273-TALK.
Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors. It is additionally important to take note of behavioral changes that occur after a trauma, loss or major life changes. Often warning signs present themselves in the way a person talks, behaves or expresses their mood.
If a person talks about:
- Killing themselves
- Feeling hopeless
- Having no reason to live
- Being a burden to others
- Feeling trapped
- Unbearable pain
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods
- Withdrawing from activities
- Isolating from family and friends
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
- Giving away prized possessions
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
- Loss of interest
- Relief/Sudden Improvement
Source Credit: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
- Isolation and aloneness
- Non-suicidal self-injury (e.g., cutting)
- Mental illness including depression, conduct disorders, and substance abuse
- Family stress/dysfunction
- Family history of suicide
- Environmental risks, including presence of a firearm in the home
- Situational crises (e.g., the presence of a gun in the home, bullying and harassment, serious disciplinary
action, death of a loved one, physical or sexual abuse, breakup of a relationship/friendship, family
violence, suicide of a peer)
Source Credit: National Association of School Psychologists
- Previous suicide attempt(s)
Suicidal Thinking and Threats: Helping Handout for Home
Preventing Suicide: What Families Need to Know
What Parents Can Do to Prevent Youth Suicide
Despite popular belief to the contrary, most teenagers do want a close relationship with their parents even though they may not admit to it openly. The relationship with their parents may have changed in form and content but it is in fact a continuum of their past relationship. Parents have to grow and change in parallel with their teenagers. It is a two way process. If the relationship is there, teenagers generally acknowledge and respect their parents' values and they want their advice and support, especially at times of stress.
A good relationship will open up communication between the youth and his/her parents. This can be a life saving safety valve to the depressed and troubled teenager. Support and early intervention can be effected before the youth contemplate suicide as an option. Relationship between teenagers and their parents can be improved by:
- Providing a stable, safe physical and emotional home environment. This may seem obvious but unfortunately this is not always the case as exemplified by the problem of homeless youths. With many families breaking up and dispute over the custody and access of children, the teenager may become the "pawn" of the parental battle.
- Spending quality time with young people. "Quality time" is a cliche frequently used in child rearing literature and it is met with a certain degree of cynicism. However, a good relationship between a youth and his/her parents cannot occur unless they spend time together.
- Listening to teenagers, not only to what is being said, but also to the covert messages. Teenagers commonly complain that their parents are keen to give advice but they don't listen to their points of view. Messages sent by teenagers may at times be tangential, contradicting and confusing. Parents will need to "de-code" these scrambled messages to get in touch with their children's feelings. In many instances this may mean an interpretation of their body language. Non-verbal action can "talk" much louder than conversational language.
- Being supportive and not intrusive. It is important for parents to acknowledge the upset and distress shown by their teenage children, but not interrogating and demanding to know the "secrets" of their distress. Teenagers will generally talk to their parents about their problems when they are ready. Respect the fact that they can solve many problems on their own without the support of others.
- Encouraging the appropriate expression of emotions. Many teenagers tend to either hide their emotions or they show them in an explosive manner, thus leading to their parents' comments about their moodiness. Encourage them to show and share their feelings of joy, happiness, excitement in their successes. They can then show and share their sadness, anxiety, distress and disappointment.
Book Resources for Suicide Prevention
by Shaun Hutchinson Year Published: 2019
At nineteen, Hutchinson was struggling to find the vocabulary to understand and accept who he was and how he fit into a community in which he couldn't see himself. Convinced that he couldn't keep going, that he had no future, Hutchinson followed through on trying to make that a reality-- an attempted suicide. Over time, he came to embrace life, and to find self-acceptance. In his deeply honest memoir, he takes readers through the journey of what brought him to the edge, and what has helped him truly believe that it does get better.
by Kate Williams Year Published: 1995
Helps parents recognize the signs of a child in crisis; how to find immediate, effective help; and how to deal with ongoing adolescent issues, including depression.
by Steven Gerali Year Published: 2011
En este práctico libro descubrirás cómo identificar y ayudar a un adolecente que está luchando con la depresión o con pensamientos suicidas. Encontrarás muchas ideas para socorrer a las familias y grupos de jóvenes que enfrentan esta situación. Descubrirás herramientas prácticas para aprender a prevenir el suicidio en los adolescentes de hoy.