This Article Guides on the Following Issues:
- The warning signs of teenage suicide
- The risk factors of teenage suicide
- How to talk to a teen about suicide
- Supporting a teen after a suicide attempt
- Resources available to parents of suicidal teens
Amid the challenges of raising teenagers, suicide has been a looming crisis that has left many families devasted. It may all seem to have come as a surprise, but a closer look at events reveals that more could have been done to save the precious lives lost. Many teenagers send out signs of distress, but as parents and caregivers, we are too caught up in our own issues to hear out the cries. Some dismiss obvious signs of teenage suicide as a typical teen stage that will eventually phase out.
Teen suicide is also a sensitive issue usually avoided because many parents do not want to imagine losing their loved ones in such circumstances. But, faced with the reality of the alarming statistics, we have to acknowledge that there is more we can and need to do. Key Healthcare is US trusted rehab for teens providing teen mental health treatment programs for teen suicidal ideation. We share this article which will carefully analyze early warning signs of teen suicide beyond the masked smiles and silence. The first and most important step in our mission to save our teenagers is recognizing the early warning signs. So, let us delve right into it.
What are the warning signs of teenage suicide?
In general terms, warning signs are initial indicators of the possibility of a particular thing happening in the future. In most instances, suicide is not an overnight decision. It culminates thought processes after failed attempts to resolve life issues.
Most people raised in a different generation may not fully appreciate teenagers’ unique challenges. Teenagers may show signs of desperation right before their eyes, but we are blinded by our own view of life to realize it. In the context of teen suicide, warning signs include behavioral, verbal, emotional, and physical warnings of suicide. Awareness of these early warning signs is important to prevent possible suicide attempts.
Behavioral Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide
Behavioral warnings refer to sudden changes in the behaviors of a teenager’s normal routines. Some of the behavioral warning signs teenagers may show include:
- Social withdrawal from friends and family
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies they once enjoyed
- A decline in academic performance
- Poor performance in extracurricular activities they were good at
- Changes in sleeping patterns. The teen may be an insomniac or sleeps too much
- Changes in eating patterns
- Unnecessary risk-taking
- Lack of response to praise
- Acting-out behaviors and running away
- Drugs and substance abuse
Verbal Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide
Verbal warning signs are statements that indicate the intention of taking one’s own life. The statements may be direct or indirect. It is important to be aware of both statements to ensure you help the teen. Some of the verbal warning signs include:
- Directly speaking about suicide. Such teenagers may say things like, “I wish I would die” or “I am going to end my life.”
- Indirectly speaking about committing suicide and expressing feelings of hopelessness. For example, they may say, “Life is too hard. I can’t do this anymore,” or “I wish I were never born.”
- Expressing feelings of being a burden to others. For example, they may say, “Everyone would be better off without me.”
- Saying farewell statements and bidding goodbye to their family members or friends. They may say, “This is the last time you’ll see me,” or “You won’t have to worry about me anymore.”
- Expressing suicide ideations. They may express their fantasies and thoughts about suicide or what it would be like to commit suicide. They may mention specific methods or talk about researching suicide.
Physical Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide
Physical warning signs are changes in a teenager’s physical well-being that may indicate suicidal thoughts and ideation. Some of the signs include:
- Teenage self-harm behaviors like cutting themselves with sharp objects, using hot objects to inflict burn marks on the skin, banging the head into walls, or hair pulling.
- Neglecting their personal appearance. They are less concerned about their appearance and how people will think of them.
- Fatigue and constant feelings of loss of energy.
- Frequent complaints of physical symptoms such as headaches, body aches, and other unexplained physical issues
Emotional Warning Signs of Teenage Suicide
Emotional warning signs comprise a wide range of intense emotions that may indicate the possibility of suicide. They include:
- Prolonged sadness. The teen may have persistent feelings of hopelessness and sadness that don’t improve over time.
- Frequent teenage mood swings of extreme highs and lows without an apparent trigger of such emotions.
- Suddenly becoming calm after a period of depression or moodiness. This may be a sign that they have already decided to take their life.
- Feelings of worthlessness and belief of being a burden to others.
All these signs are not an automatic indication of suicide, but if you realize several signs, it is important to seek immediate help to prevent further harm.
Common Risk Factors for Teenage Suicide
Some factors may predispose teenagers to a higher risk of suicide. Here are some of the risk factors.
- Mental health conditions – Teenagers with undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues like teen depression, anxiety, PTSD, and bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of suicide.
- Previous suicide attempts – Prior attempts indicate issues that may not have been fully resolved, which may place them at a higher risk of suicide.
- Family history of suicide – Underlying genetic factors may contribute to the risk of suicide and other related mental health disorders.
- Drugs and substance abuse – Drugs and alcohol abuse can affect a teenager’s judgment and cause other mental health issues that may lead to suicide attempts. Also, check out – common drugs used by teens.
- Struggling with sexual orientation and gender identity – Many teenagers from families or communities that are not supportive or respective of other sexual orientations are at a higher risk of suicide because of the challenges they face in such environments.
- Traumatic experiences – Witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event like domestic abuse, sexual abuse, child neglect, or losing a loved one may contribute to emotional struggles, leading to a higher risk of suicide.
- Lack of social support – Teenagers who do not receive social support from their family members or friend may feel isolated and view suicide as an easy way out of their problems.
- Lack of access to mental health services – Language barriers, financial burdens, and lack of mental health facilities in some places may limit access to mental health services.
- Cultural beliefs – Some cultures believe that suicide is a noble way to resolve some of life’s challenging aspects and be less of a burden to other people.
- Access to lethal means – Teenagers with access to guns and other lethal substances like pills are at a higher risk of suicide.
- Bullying – Persistent bullying and victimization may cause teenagers to hate themselves, isolate, and contemplate suicide.
What should I do if I Suspect My Teen is Suicidal?
Once you notice some warning signs, taking the warning seriously and acting fast is important. Do not dismiss the signs as typical teenage behavior. The following are some useful tips when in such a situation.
- Remain calm and observant – Although the situation may be distressing, it is important to remain calm and watch out for the warning signs closely. This will help you approach the situation with a strategy rather than acting impulsively, which may not help the situation.
- Remove immediate danger – If you believe your teen is suicidal, remove any means of self-harm, like firearms and medication, until the teen gets professional help.
- Educate yourself – Learn about suicide prevention, warning signs, risk factors, and how you can get help. Understanding the topic can help you provide better support and recognize potential signs in the future.
- Involve a trusted adult – If your teen is reluctant to talk to you, suggest involving another trusted adult, such as a teacher, school counselor, or family doctor. They can provide additional support and guidance.
- Seek professional help – Seek the assistance of mental health professionals who specialize in working with teenage suicidal ideation. They will help develop a teen mental health treatment plan for your teen.
How Can I Talk to My Teen About Suicide?
This is a question that many parents and caregivers ask us when they recognize the warning signs of suicide. Many parents feel helpless in such a situation, not knowing what step to take next. The following are useful guides that can help you navigate this challenging period.
Starting The Conversation With Your Teen
The first step is to try to get into your teen’s mind. The best way to know what bothers them is to hear from the teen themselves. Starting a conversation requires a strategic approach because, most of the time, they may be unwilling to talk. How you approach the conversation determines whether they can talk to you. Consider the following when trying to talk to your teen.
- Prepare for the conversation – Prepare what questions you will ask your teen. Part of the preparation also involves choosing the right place and time comfortable for the teen. Choose a calm and safe place to have private and interrupted conversations with them.
- Approach with a non-judgmental attitude – Begin the conversation with a non-judgmental attitude by expressing your love, care, and concern for their well-being. Tell them you’ve noticed changes or signs that have raised your concerns. Validate their feelings and do not dismiss or criticize them. This will make them more willing to share what is bothering them.
- Use open-ended questions –Avoid questions that only have yes/no answers. Encourage them to express themselves by asking relevant open-ended questions.
- Listen Actively – Be a good listener and allow them to express themselves without unnecessary interruptions. Validate their feelings and let them know you care.
To learn more, check out – how to communicate with your teenager.
Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment for the Conversation
A safe and supportive environment is necessary to ensure the teen is as open as possible. A safe environment is not only about the physical surroundings but also considering their feelings and how they would be comfortable during the conversation. You can create a safe and supportive environment in the following ways.
- Show empathy and understanding – Validate their feelings and let them know it’s okay to experience a range of emotions. Try to put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge the challenges they might be facing.
- Offer reassurance and support – Let them know you are committed to ensuring they will be okay. Assure them that you will be with them throughout their journey.
- Assure confidentially – Assure them that whatever you discuss with them will be confidential, and no one else needs to know about it. This helps build trust and encourages open communication.
- Avoid criticism – Create a non-judgmental environment where your teen feels safe expressing their thoughts and emotions. Focus on understanding and supporting them rather than assigning blame or guilt.
- Encouraging open dialogue – Parents should let their children know they can always come to them if they have any fears or concerns. Tell them you are always there to help them with any issue.
- Address any misconceptions – Some teens may have suicidal thoughts because of wrong perceptions of life. Correct any misconceptions they may have about suicide and provide accurate information about mental health issues. Also, inform them of the importance of seeking help.
- Normalize their feelings – Explain that it’s common for people to experience difficult emotions and that seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Seeking Professional Help If Needed
Sometimes you may be overwhelmed and have no idea where to start. You might also have tried your best, but your teen is unwilling to talk to you, and the warning signs are still apparent. If you are in such a situation, consult a qualified mental health professional to guide you. Take immediate action if the teen shows clear signs of possible suicide.
How Can I Support My Teen After a Suicide Attempt?
A teen who just survived a suicide attempt needs delicate care to prevent future harm. Parents can support such teenagers in the following ways.
Gaining the Trust of The Teen
Teenagers who attempted suicide are still in a state of shock and recovering from it. The trust in you as parents has been damaged during the incident. Now, show increased care, love, respect and empathy and try to rebuild that trust with your teen. Let them know you will be there for them and overcome challenges together.
Changing Your Thought Process and Behavior
As a parent it may be hard for us to believe that we can be wrong. Unfortunately our stringent approach and behavior sometime push our teen with unique persepctive away and feeling desperate. Teen develop the thought that nobody can understand them and lose all the hope. Parents can make an effort to be more assenting to young beliefs and ideology.
Encourage Your Teen To Seek Professional Help
Address some of the misconceptions about seeking professional help and its associated stigma. Encourage your teen to consult qualified mental health professionals who can provide appropriate assessments, treatment plans, and therapy tailored to your teen’s needs. Work closely with the professional to know how best you can support the treatment plan, which may include teen family therapy sessions.
Working With Your Teen’s School to Create a Supportive Environment
If your teen is constantly bullied at school, they may develop suicidal thoughts again. Teenagers may also be at a higher risk of attempting suicide again if some schoolmates also attempt suicide. It is important to ensure schools remain safe for all our teenagers. Hence, it is important for parents to work collaboratively with their teenagers’ schools to create a supportive environment for teenagers who may be at risk of suicide. Parents can collaborate with schools in the following ways.
- Share relevant information about your teen to help them with their struggles. You should also discuss any modifications that can be made to the school to create an environment that is good for their emotional well-being.
- Advocate for the school to create mental health awareness and educate the students on how they can support one another. Peer education can help reduce stigma and create a more inclusive atmosphere.
- Advocate for training staff on suicide prevention and recognizing early warning signs of suicide.
- Encourage the school to promote inclusivity, respect diversity, and discourage bullying and stigmatization.
Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
Taking care of a suicidal teen can also affect your mental health. It is emotionally draining, especially if the situation does not improve. It is important to prioritize your well-being to support your teen effectively. Here are some ways to take care of yourself.
- Seek a support system –Reach out to professionals, close friends, family members, and support groups who can provide guidance and a safe space for expressing your concerns about your teenager.
- Educate yourself – Knowledge of mental health issues and suicide can help understand the teen’s experience and offer better support.
- Practice self-care – Engage in activities and hobbies you enjoy. You can also practice activities that reduce stress, like meditation, exercise, and journaling.
- Set boundaries – Acknowledge your limits so that taking care of your teen does not affect your life, for example, professionally. Taking care of a suicidal teen should also not be to the extent of neglecting other siblings and family members.
- Take breaks – Allow yourself time to rest. Take turns on caregiving responsibilities with other close family members.
Resources are Available for Parents of Suicidal Teen
One of the biggest challenges in preventing suicide is the lack of access to mental health resources that can help parents support suicidal teens. Some parts of the country do not have enough physical facilities where parents can get help for their teens. The lack of access is also because many parents are unaware of the many online resources that can help them remotely without the need to go to a physical facility.
Key Healthcare understands parents’ challenges and has many resources, including crisis hotlines, mental health professionals, and online information. It also provides the necessary support and guidance to help parents navigate and assist their teens through this difficult time. Call (800) 421-4364 to get in touch with Key Healthcare.
Here are some other resources that can guide parents in handling suicidal teens.
Crisis Hotlines and Emergency Services
Crisis Hotlines are phone numbers that people can call in times of emergencies. The phone calls are usually handled by trained volunteers who can help with emergencies. They may be through a phone call or text. The Hotlines include:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – This national network offers emotional support to people having suicidal thoughts. The contact information is as follows:
- Crisis Text Line – The crisis text line offers help to anyone in any kind of crisis. Text HOME to 741741 or visit https://www.crisistextline.org/
- The Trevor Project – This offers help to youths of the LGBTQ community who may be having suicidal thoughts. The contact information is as follows:
- Text START to 678678. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/
Online Resources and Information
Some useful online resources include:
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide – This site offers educational training programs to create awareness of teen suicides.
- National Alliance on Mental Illness Resource – This offers guidance to parents and caregivers on their teenagers’ mental health issues. It is also a useful resource for teens contemplating suicide.
- THRIVE app – This is a Mobile App designed to help parents and caregivers initiate conversations with their teenagers on various topics, including their mental health status.
Support Groups for Parents and Caregivers
Support groups are important because they can help parents learn how they handled their situations from other parents with similar experiences. Support groups are also forums for expressing their feelings and supporting one another during this difficult period.
Parents can look for local support groups for parents of teenagers struggling with suicidal thoughts.
Parents can also explore online forums where they can connect with other parents.
In today’s world, teenagers grow up in unique environments that have made them face unique challenges, and it is up to us, as parents, caregivers, and society as a whole, to be mindful of their mental well-being. Many distressed teenagers express physical, emotional, and behavioral signs of suicide that we must look for to intervene in time. Once we notice such signs, we should proactively approach the situation strategically to ensure the teen receives help immediately. Always foster open communication with your teenager and create a supportive and loving environment. It is through our collective efforts and unwavering support that we can help our teenagers overcome suicidal thoughts.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Are there any preventive measures I can take to reduce the risk of suicide in my teen?
The risks can be reduced by maintaining open communication, creating a supportive and loving environment, being involved in your teen’s life, educating yourself about mental health and suicide, recognizing warning signs, and seeking professional help.
What should I do if my teenager refuses to get help for suicidal thoughts?
If your teenager refuses to get help, continue to express your concern and support, listen without judgment, and encourage open conversations. Reach out for help from trusted adults and other mental health professionals to guide you. If your teen is at immediate risk, do not hesitate to call for immediate help.
Can medication help prevent teenage suicide?
Yes. Medication can help treat underlying mental health issues like teen anxiety and depression.
Are there gender differences in teenage suicidal behavior?
Yes. Statistics indicate that teenage girls have higher rates of suicide ideation and non-fatal suicide attempts, while boys have a higher rate of completed suicides.
Can social media use increase the risk of teenage suicide?
Social media can contribute to suicide by exposing teenagers to harmful content, cyberbullying, comparing themselves to others, and promoting social teenage isolation. It’s a good idea to monitor your teenager’s online habits and promote healthy internet use. For more information check out – how does social media affect teenagers
Can antidepressants increase the risk of teenage suicide?
Most antidepressants come with FDA warnings of increased risk of suicide ideation. But, the efficiency of such medications in treating depression outweighs the risks of suicide ideation.
How can I make my home safer for a suicidal teenager?
You can make your home safer by removing potentially harmful objects and securing medications that teenagers cannot access easily.
Are there any legal consequences for parents of a suicidal teen?
If a parent neglects a child and ignores obvious warning signs, they may face charges of child neglect or endangerment.