Suicide will always be the nation's silent stigma. Someone taking their own life at any age is a tragedy and nothing is more devastating when kids who haven’t even started their lives feel the need to end it all.
More teenagers and young adults die by way of suicide than anything else, according to The Parent Resource Program. This includes cancer, diseases, birth defects and more. Within the US alone, there’s an average of more than 3,000 attempts everyday from students in grades 9 - 12 alone.
Suicidal ideation or attempts in teenagers can be due to a multitude of reasons. Stress, pressure to succeed and loss can be contributing factors (American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.) Depression is common in anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts but other risk factors can be identified as well. Exposure to violence, bullying and aggressive behaviour are also presenting factors.
If you are a parent or friend of someone who may be wondering if a teen is depressed, there are warning signs to watch out for. A change in eating or sleeping habits can be a subtle sign that someone is depressed. Withdrawal from friends and family and a decline in schoolwork can also be telling signs that a teen has fallen into the rabbit hole that is depression.
It’s vitally important to talk about these issues. That’s the only way to shed the negative stigma of mental illness and begin to get help for the teen or young adult.
Obviously, getting help from a professional is a vital first step but is something that can take time and oftentimes different things will need to be tried before finding a solution that works for a particular person.
In the meantime, there are steps that a parent or guardian can take in order help prevent suicide attempts. Keep any medicines and weapons away from the teen. This can be difficult, as even household tools can be used to harm oneself. But keeping things out of the general line of sight can help to delay suicidal attempts, until appropriate help can be called in.
Supporting the teen is incredibly important as well. Sometimes just sitting down and letting them vent their feelings without criticism can be very helpful in the moment. Letting them know that you’re there for them and willing to listen can go a long way.
Educating yourself about the causes and treatments for depression can also be immensely helpful, to shed any preconceived notions you may have about the illness and better help aid your teen. This will also help you when you visit a healthcare professional. Going in with a list of questions can ease both yours and your child's mind.
For resources on where to turn to, visit sprc.org.