According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suicide is now the third leading cause of death for teens and young adults between 15 and 24 years old(1); however, parents can help to prevent these unnecessary deaths.
Awareness and Risk Factors
While discussing your religious views of suicide with your teen or making sure they understand the finality of suicide is important, awareness is key in preventing teen suicide.
Parents can learn the risk factors for teen suicide before any warning signs appear. Along with social variables such as peer pressure, other variables are often present in teen suicide cases.
- According to Laurie Flynn, the Director for Child Mental Health Policy at Columbia University, mental illness is present in more than 90% of all suicide cases(2). Parents who are aware that their child's mental illness (depression, bipolar disorder) may lead to suicidal thoughts or acts can prevent them.
- If your teen has witnessed suicidal attempts or suicide from a family member or friend, they are more at risk to try and commit suicide his/herself(3).
- A teen who abuses alcohol or substances may be more at risk to commit suicide(3).
- If you know your teen is experiencing overwhelming feelings such as the loss of a loved one, failure at school, violence at school or home, or other feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, you should watch your teen for any warning signs of suicide(3).
- A teen that has or is suffering from physical or sexual abuse is also more likely to commit suicide than other teens(3).
- Teens who are dealing with prejudices against them due to homosexuality or nationality are also more likely to prevent suicide(3).
Individual Attention for Teens
If you feel that your teen is at risk to become suicidal, you can provide special attention to them and their situation. Simply talking to a teen that is at risk for suicide on a regular basis can help them from becoming depressed.
Instead of "preaching" to your teen or trying to solve their problems for them, it is important for them to feel as though they can confide in you and talk freely without criticism.
While ideally you may feel as though you are the person whom your teen can come to with a problem, your teen may prefer another trustworthy adult to talk with such as another relative, a school teacher, or a religious affiliate. Any communicable outlet for feelings is good for your teen.
While all teens may experience mood swings and ups and downs in their lives, it is important for parents to be alert at all times. It is normal for your teen to try to individualize from you and your spouse; however, it is important to maintain a healthy relationship and remain active in your teen's life. Parents who take the time to assess their teen's risk of becoming suicidal can prevent these tragedies.
If you should start seeing warning signs of a suicidal teen, it is necessary to intervene and seek help immediately.