Suicide is not among the most favorable family-friendly conversation in most homes, but it should be. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons aged between 10-24 years. Suicide does affect children and teenagers too. Therefore there is a need to have this discussion to be aware of what to do and when to seek help whenever this idea rings in their heads.
Most parents misinterpret that if they discuss suicide with their kids, they are planting these ideas inside them. However, this is far from true. Most children and teens are already struggling with suicidal thoughts but are afraid of talking about them. This discussion ensures that the victim is not alone and can talk to their parents and find help.
Suicide in Teens – Causes of Suicidal Thoughts
A lot of things trigger suicidal thoughts in children and teens. Bullying, confusion, sadness, and anger can all lead to suicidal thoughts in these individuals. Parents are urged to be keen about any change in their small children since red flags can be subtle in them.
However, red flags in teenage individuals are evident because sometimes it gets verbal. Whenever you hear them make statements such as, “You are better off without me,” or “No one cares whether I live or die,” something is wrong, and you might need to find help.
Usually, children who commit suicide had experienced relationship issues with loved ones, while adolescents who die from suicide had relationship issues with romantic partners. Either a child or teen with suicidal thoughts is likely to have a mental health problem. Suicidal teens are also likely to have depression or dysthymia, while children are likely to be experiencing attention deficit disorder, either with or without hyperactivity
Remember, some children and teens also experience stressful life events but do not think of dying. They might want to be alone or withdraw from loved ones for a while but are not a danger to themselves. Therefore, if you think that something is causing suicidal thoughts to your child or teen, it’s likely that they also are experiencing mental health problems that need professional’s help.
Signs That Your Child or Teen Is Suicidal
The common sign of suicidal thoughts is being verbal about them or doing something that might end one’s life. If your loved one talks about ending or trying to end their life, it’s time to seek professional help.
There are many signs that might indicate that your child or teen is suicidal. However, the below list does not necessarily mean that they are definitely going to commit suicide. Rather the list is just a guide on what to watch out for and risks factors that might lead to suicide. Remember that suicide risks revolve around many things, and the individual needs continuous monitoring by mental health practitioners. Some risks factors might include:
- Traumatic events
- Mental problems
- Mental illness history in the family
- Family disruption
- Sexual or physical abuse
- Aggressive behavior
- Physical illness
- Lack of social support
- Poor coping skills
- Difficulty in dealing with sexuality
- Exposure to suicide
The following are suicidal signs you should watch out for:
- Sadness that does not go away
- Preoccupation with death
- Engaging in risky behaviors
- Giving away belongings
- Changes in appetite
- Decreased energy
- unending irritability
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Too much or less sleep
- Social withdrawal
- Low concentration
- Lack of interest in school
- Substance abuse
How to Tell If Your Teen or Child Has Suicidal Thoughts
The best way to tell whether your loved one has suicidal thoughts is by asking them. Do not beat around the bush, but rather ask them directly. You can ask them, “My love, I am worried about you. Have you ever thought about ending your life?”
Individuals with suicidal thoughts show some warning signs; however, asking the individual will put your worries to rest. Remember that the more suicidal signs your teen exhibits, the higher their risk for acting on them. As far as asking them whether they think of death is concerned, it’s advisable to understand that they won’t tell you the truth. In case you doubt their answers, ensure that you seek the therapist’s help. In case of emergency, call 911 immediately.
How to Prevent Suicide
Apart from those teens who succeed in committing suicide, many attempts do not succeed. It is estimated that 20 -25% of teens confess to thinking about suicide at one point in their lives, while for every suicide, there are between 5 – 45 suicide attempts. With this in mind, grown-ups around suicidal teens and children need to understand ways to stop suicide. These ways might include:
- Ensure that weapons and medication are stored safely where no one unauthorized can access them
- Recognize warning and risks factors and find help immediately
- Call the National Prevention Lifeline if you need help in talking to your teen or child
- Seek help for your loved one if you think they are depressed or are experiencing anxiety
Statistics reveal that while grown-ups are at risk of developing suicidal thoughts, children and teens are equally at risk. Suicide being second in causing death in these groups, serious actions must be taken to prevent more children and teens from acting on it.
Teens and children should be taught to understand that having these thoughts does not necessarily mean acting on them. Instead, they should talk about them and seek help from grown-ups. Ensure that your loved one knows they can count on you for help or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, their doctor, or 911.
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Ensure that your loved one gets enough love and support from family to avoid suicidal thoughts due to relationship issues. Disagreements between parents should be avoided in the presence of these individuals to avoid the same.