Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Friday, November 9, 2012

How To Know If Your Teenager Has Suicidal Behavior

Teenagers are usually excellent at hiding their problems, pain, concerns and fears, especially from parents and caregivers. It is important to listen carefully to what a teenager is saying and to take her seriously when she is talking about suicide. There is not a reliable way to know the exact figures of teenage suicide attempts, however, with the information available, the National Institute of Mental Health believes that for every completed suicide, there are as much as 25 more suicide attempts. It is extremely important that parents/caregivers know the warning signs, to be aware of suicidal behaviors and how to keep her safe if suicidal thoughts are a concern.

Suicidal Warning Signs

The first step to teenage suicide prevention is to recognize the warning signs and suicidal behaviors. It is vital to have active involvement in a teenager's life, so you will be able to recognize changes in behavior. Teenagers are under a great deal of pressure and stress, so it is important to understand what the child is going through in order to help them cope with natural hormonal and life changes. Some of the suicidal warning signs and behaviors include:
  • Loss of interest in schoolwork and declining grades 
  • Loss of interest in extracurricular activities they previously enjoyed 
  • Change in sleep pattern 
  • Behavioral problems 
  • Change in eating habits 
  • Dramatic change in weight loss or gain 
  • Risky taking behaviors 
  • Difficulties concentrating 
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and/or appearance 
  • Isolating themselves from family and/or friends 
  • Dramatic mood swings 
  • Evidence of drug use, alcohol use or both 
  • Emotional distress and complaints of headaches, fatigue and/or body aches 
  • Expresses thoughts of dying 
  • Verbalizes thoughts of committing suicide or making statements such as "I wish I could die" or "I want to kill myself" 
  • Verbal phrases such "in case something happens, I just want you know..." 
  • Throws away possessions or gives favorite items away 
  • Writes suicides notes 
  • Asks bizarre questions about dying, such as does it hurt or how long does it take to die

Keeping a Teenager Safe

It is vital that as parents and caregivers you talk with your teenager. It is common for parents to find it difficult to have an open line of communications with teenagers, but it is important that the teen knows they can come to you when they are sad, upset or afraid. When a teenager shows signs of suicidal thoughts, their behaviors have to be taken seriously. While a disagreement among teenage friends may seem petty to an adult, to a teenager it can overwhelming. Many teenagers that have attempted and/or committed suicide gave some type of warning sign.

If your teenager is not comfortable talking with you about their problems or concerns, contact a school counselor, a therapist, pediatrician or clergyman to talk with your child or click here to learn more about your options in dealing with troubled teenagers. It is important to remember that there are several myths surrounding teenage suicides such as they are only doing it for attention or the only kids who commit suicide are those that are depressed. These are just that, myths. The reality is many teenagers do not show any signs of depression and if the child brings up suicide, it is not a way of getting attention; it is a cry for help.

Image Citation: Noize Photography

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