Adolescence is a time of significant cognitive, mental, and emotional change. This change can be challenging and cause some to feel hopeless.
Youth who are considering suicide often give warning signs. Parents, teachers, and other adults who care about children should learn to recognize these signs and take action.
Restricting access to lethal means, such as medication (over-the-counter and prescription), guns, and other weapons, reduces the risk of suicide.
Talking to Your Teen
A teen experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors needs immediate care and evaluation. This includes a physical exam to check for life-threatening health issues and an assessment by a mental health professional who treats adolescents and teens. The teen may be treated at home or in an inpatient facility.
Many teens with suicidal thoughts are at risk of feeling marginalized or alone. They can have social or cultural beliefs that discourage help-seeking or make it difficult to access services. This can include a lack of awareness that suicide prevention programs exist or the idea that seeking help will not be effective.
People should pay attention to warning signs and always take threats seriously, even if they are not immediately serious. They should also reassess their safety and remove firearms, medications, sharp objects, and other lethal means from their homes or vehicles. They should also be careful not to make a person feel isolated or abandoned.
Seek Mental Health Help
The teen years are an especially vulnerable time for many people. They are a time of tremendous change, and the pressure to fit in socially and academically is high. They are often a time of uncertainty and family problems. Combined with raging hormones, they can be a recipe for depression and suicidal thoughts or actions.
If you have a struggling child or adolescent, seek professional help immediately. Therapists and counselors specialize in treating mental health issues, and they can provide your loved one with treatment that will address the underlying causes of their mood or behavior changes.
In addition to helping with treatment, a mental health professional can help you locate community resources or help from the foundation Brought To Reality. These might include toll-free suicide prevention hotlines, which can be accessed 24/7. In addition, local crisis response teams can be contacted for help. They are trained to assist with both emotional and physical emergencies. Keeping guns out of the home and other potentially lethal weapons is another necessary precaution.
Keep the Appointment
Suicide is a personal issue, and knowing what to do or say is difficult. But taking any threat seriously is essential, even if the teen later says they didn’t mean it.
It’s also essential for parents to keep potentially lethal materials out of the home, especially if teens are at risk of suicide. This includes any gun, ammunition, and medication. Safe storage options such as trigger locks and locked cabinets help to reduce the likelihood of tragedy.
Another effective strategy is to promote peer-to-peer support. For example, a campaign encourages young people to talk with their peers about mental health and be a good friend who offers supportive help when someone is struggling. It’s also vital for schools to be aware of warning signs and risk factors, Moutier said. The best prevention strategies involve the entire school community, including students and faculty members.
Resist the Urge
While adolescence is a time of tremendous growth, it can also be a period of anxiety and stress. Combined with the pressure to perform in school and their social life, these factors can make teens vulnerable to depression and suicide.
Teens who have suicidal thoughts often feel isolated and unable to cope. They may think that others will be better off without them or that they burden their loved ones. They may even withdraw from activities they usually enjoy, like playing sports or video games.
It’s essential to recognize the warning signs of suicide and get help immediately. Whether you are concerned about yourself or someone else, it’s not a problem that can be solved by “wait and see.” People at risk for suicide need to know that they are not a burden and that there is hope. They need to be able to talk about their feelings and have a caring person to turn to.