Teen Suicide Prevention
Mood swings, rash decisions, the desire to belong—these are all part of being an adolescent. However, parents must be able to recognize when something more serious comes into play. How can parents spot the warning signs for depression, and how can they prevent self-harm, or worse, suicide?
Teenage self-harm and suicide may be difficult to talk about. Still, parents need to be well-informed as the rates of depression among teenagers are growing every year. Furthermore, 1 out of 4 teenage girls engage in non-suicidal self-harm. Simultaneously, 1 out of 10 boys harms themselves on purpose.
If this isn’t alarming enough, then parents should note that there has been a 47% increase in teenage suicide within the past two decades. Teen suicide prevention is essential, and in this article, we’ll discuss what parents can do to help.
Understanding Depression, Self-harm, and Suicidal Ideation
It’s easy to dismiss signs of depression and think of them as “just the blues” or “teenage angst.” However, it is a serious health problem that needs intervention and professional help.
Here are some of the signs to look for:
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anger that persist for long periods
- Sudden disinterest in usual hobbies or activities
- Conflict with family, friends, or authority figures
- Recurring feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or failure
- Problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making
- Changes in sleep pattern or appetite
- Alcohol or drug use
- Fluctuations in energy resulting in tiredness, agitation, or restlessness
- A desire for constant isolation
- Poor academic performance
- Risky behavior or “acting out”
One symptom of depression is self-harm, which may or may not lead to suicidal ideation. Self-harm, or self-injury, is usually done to relieve emotional pain or distress. There may be visible signs, such as cuts, burns, or bruises. And some forms may be more difficult to spot, such as cuts on a concealed body part.
Other individuals going through depression may have suicidal thoughts. Suicidal ideation may be passive, wherein a teenager may think about death as a way to end emotional distress. It may also be an active type where actual plans about committing suicide are made. Whether passive or active, parents must always take suicide ideation seriously and immediately call for professional help.
How Parents Can Help
Suicidal ideation is a symptom of depression caused by many factors. These can be due to abnormalities in the brain chemistry, inherited traits, forms of trauma, learned patterns of thinking, or changes in the body’s hormones. It’s common to have more than one cause, and different treatment forms are available.
So what can parents do to help a teenager who is going through depression?
Seek Professional Help, ASAP
Don’t just shrug off the symptoms as something “mild” or something that will “go away on its own.” Always treat depressive symptoms seriously, and call your doctor to ask for professional advice. If you have a local mental health provider in your area, contact them right away. Your teenager needs to be evaluated so that they will receive therapy, counseling, or medication immediately.
If your teenager is actively suicidal or is continuing to self-harm, go to the emergency room. Let your teen know you acknowledge the issue, that it is not their fault, and you want to help. Give them access to suicide prevention hotlines, and convince them that they should tell you or contact the hotline whenever suicidal thoughts arise.
Open and Honest Communication
Parents should listen to a teenager without judgment and with the desire to provide enough emotional support. It’s natural for teens to find it difficult to open up to their parents. Reassure them that they are in a safe environment and that you are willing to provide all the support they need.
Learn to understand your teenager’s behavior and be sensitive to any non-verbal actions or communication. Doing this will help you see changes in behavioral patterns and better understand how your teenager is feeling. As much as possible, don’t leave your teenager alone. Hide all weapons or dangerous objects.
It would also help to share your feelings with your teenager. Let them know that you don’t want them to remain in this state and that treatment is available.
Take it One Day at a Time
Explain that treatment, therapy, and medication take time to kick in. It may also take a while to find the best treatment option, as this varies from person to person. While undergoing treatment, avoid demanding too much from your teen and overwhelming them with expectation and responsibility.
Encourage your teen to talk to family or friends throughout the treatment process. Aside from talking to a mental health professional, it would greatly help if your teenager has someone else to confide with.
Take things one step at a time, but don’t let negative emotions snowball. Give your teen space, but encourage them to stick with the treatment and assure them that things will eventually get better. It also helps to prepare meals that help regulate mood, such as those rich in Omega-3. Establishing a routine, such as a physical exercise schedule, can make a difference.
Always take suicidal ideation seriously, and never dismiss depression as just “teenage melodrama,” “a phase,” or “a way to get attention.” It’s always better to overreact than to not do enough.
The most important thing is to let your teenager know that you are there to provide support, encouragement, and a safe environment until they feel better. Remind them that yes, things will get better, and they need to trust you and hold on.