Talking to Teens About Suicide
Suicide – something no one wants to think about, but every parent should talk about it.
Many believe that if you mention suicide, you plant the idea, but this is not the case. Some things should never be swept under the rug. Open communication can be challenging for some teens and parents. However, identifying age-appropriate ways to talk about teen suicide is critical for parents and caregivers.
Increased Risk of Suicide
Different life experiences may affect the risk of suicide. The implications of the current pandemic on mental health have shown increased rates of depression and anxiety. According to Psychiatric Times, social distancing can have a devastating effect on adolescents ages 14-17. A lack of motivation is a common sign of the times.
There are teen suicide warning signs. However, some kids are adept at hiding their feelings. For these kids, it is especially crucial to check-in.
Teen Suicide Warning Signs
- Physical changes
- A sudden drop in grades
- Social withdrawal – even via technology
- Talking about suicide
- Talking about feeling hopeless
- Self-harm behaviors
- Substance use
Open the Lines of Communication
Watching for the warning signs is helpful, but we encourage you to start an open dialogue with your adolescent. Studies have found that poor communication between parents and children is a common trait among families affected by suicide.
Ask how they are feeling and managing life and listen to their answer. As parents, we want to believe our kids are perfectly happy, and it can hurt to learn they aren’t. Rather than dismissing their feelings or focusing on your hurt, please encourage them to keep sharing. Ask them to provide more detail on what’s going on in their lives to make them feel the way they do.
Being a teenager is tough. And being a teenager during a pandemic can be life-altering. Families need to express their love and concern for one another. Chances are, you’ve had challenges as a teen. Don’t be afraid to share them with your teen as a way to better connect with them. Sharing the hardships you faced may help them see you as a person who has wisdom and life lessons to communicate, rather than a parent they don’t want to disappoint. Be honest and truthful, and let them know they can do the same.
Maintaining relationships today is more challenging than ever before. Many teens who were quick to text and Facetime friends in the spring have drastically cut back communication with their friends. Isolation can increase a teen’s risk of suicide. Encourage your teen to stay connected with friends and loved ones. Host game or movie nights as a family. Take your teen on a date. Virtual game nights are also great for families that are geographically isolated. Laughter truly is a medicine that can help teens feel less alone during this unpredictable time.
Seek Professional Help
If you are concerned about your teenager’s behavior, seek help from their pediatrician right away. Trust your intuition, and don’t leave a suicidal teenager alone. If you have guns in your home, store them safely, or move them out of the house until the crisis has passed. Never shrug off threats of suicide as melodrama. Children who have attempted suicide report that they’ve been telling their parents repeatedly about killing themselves.
We are here to help. If you have questions or concerns about teen suicide, please do not hesitate to contact us.