What are the warning signs for teen suicide?
Teen suicide is a serious problem. Adolescent suicide is the second leading cause of death, following accidents, among youth and young adults in the U.S. It is estimated that 500,000 teens attempt suicide every year with 5,000 succeeding. These are epidemic numbers.
Family difficulties, the loss of a loved one, or perceived failures at school or in relationships can all lead to negative feelings and depression. And teen depression often makes problems seem overwhelming and the associated pain unbearable. Suicide is an act of desperation and teen depression is often the root cause.
Warning signs of suicide with teen depression include:
- Expressing hopelessness for the future
- Giving up on one's self, talking as if no one else cares
- Preparing for death, giving away favorite possessions, writing goodbye letters, or making a will
- Starting to use or abuse drugs or alcohol to aid sleep or for relief from their mental anguish
- Threatening to kill one's self
If your teenager displays any of these behaviors, you should seek help from a mental healthcare professional immediately. Or you can call a suicide hotline for help.
Depression carries a high risk of suicide. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken very, very seriously. Do not hesitate to call your local suicide hotline immediately. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
What can parents do to alleviate teen depression?
Parenting teens can be very challenging. There are, though, some effective parenting and communication techniques you can use to help lower the stress level for your teenager:
- When disciplining your teen, replace shame and punishment with positive reinforcement for good behavior. Shame and punishment can make an adolescent feel worthless and inadequate.
- Allow your teenager to make mistakes. Overprotecting or making decisions for teens can be perceived as a lack of faith in their abilities. This can make them feel less confident.
- Give your teen breathing room. Don't expect teens to do exactly as you say all of the time.
- Do not force your teen down a path you wanted to follow. Avoid trying to relive your youth through your teen's activities and experiences.
- If you suspect that your teen is depressed, take the time to listen to his or her concerns. Even if you don't think the problem is of real concern, remember that it may feel very real to someone who is growing up.
- Keep the lines of communication open, even if your teen seems to want to withdraw.
- Try to avoid telling your teen what to do. Instead, listen closely and you may discover more about the issues causing the problems.
- If there is a close friend or family member your teen is close to and comfortable with, you might suggest your teen talk with this person about his or her concerns.
If you feel overwhelmed or unable to reach your teen, or if you continue to be concerned, seek help from a qualified health care professional.