Adolescence is a turbulent time. As a parent, relative, or teacher of a teen, you know this.
But sometimes emotional turbulence is more than normal ups and downs of development. Unfortunately, some adolescents consider, attempt, and commit suicide. If you have teenage children or are around teens regularly, it’s important to be well-informed of warning signs. You also need to know what to do if you suspect suicide is a possibility.
Here are some of the warning signs.
1. Mental Health Diagnosis
Sadly, teens who have a mental health diagnosis are more likely to consider suicide than those who don’t. This includes depression, anxiety in its many forms, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and more.
If the adolescents in your life have been diagnosed or gone through treatment for a mental illness, keep this at the front of your mind. Of course, not all teens with mental illness commit suicide. But it’s a very helpful piece of information if you’re concerned about the possibility. Also consider family history. If there is a family history of suicide this also increases their chance.
2. Recent Crisis
Because adolescent brains are still developing, they often make impulsive decisions about large and small things. If an adolescent has recently gone through or is going through a crisis, keep tabs on their moods and behavior.
These crises can include conflicts with family, friends, the school system, law enforcement, and others.
3. Behavior Changes
If your normally upbeat teenager becomes unusually short-tempered, sad, or withdrawn, it’s important to identify possible causes for the changes. Dramatic behavior changes can be a sign that they’re considering suicide as a result of a deeper issue.
4. Overt Signs
Some signs that a teen is considering suicide are more apparent than others. Teens may talk about suicide, mention it offhand, or joke about it. They might also start giving away important possessions.
What You Can Do
Take It Seriously
If a teen in your life seems more depressed or withdrawn than usual, don’t brush it off. Likewise, if they mention suicide, pay attention.
Let them know you care about them and want to help them. Teens who are considering suicide often feel intensely lonely and hopeless. Having a reassuring presence in their life can go a long way.
It’s also important to monitor their social media accounts for signs of bullying or fixation on death and violence.
Remove Potential Weapons
If you own firearms, try to store them at a location outside of your home. Likewise, lock up and hide medications, sharp knives and kitchen implements, and any ropes. While you can’t remove all potential methods of suicide, you can make it harder by removing these more obvious means.
Suicidal people often want to isolate themselves. While it can be hard to encourage a teenager to socialize when they don’t want to, it’s an important thing to do. Invite them to watch a movie in the living room, play a simple game, or do something else they enjoy.
The point is to spend time with them and provide emotional support.
If a teen (or adult) is suicidal, it’s very important to reach out for professional help. This is a serious emotional state that shouldn’t be ignored. Even if you’re able to help your adolescent become more stabilized, it’s vital to help them build more emotional resources.
A therapist who specializes in working with adolescents can provide support for both of you. They can evaluate your teen for mental illnesses and identify skill-building goals to help thwart suicidal tendencies in the future.
You may feel hopeless if you think your adolescent is considering suicide. But there is hope for them, and for you. Please reach out to my office to learn more about helping your teen.