Preventing Suicide Among Children and Teenagers
Bullying. Depression. Problems at home and/or school. Hormonal changes. These are just a few of the many factors that can contribute to youth suicide. With suicide being the second leading cause of death for youth, according to the CDC’s WISQARS for 2015, and statistics showing that over approximately 3,500 young people grades 7-12 attempt suicide each day in the United States, it is important to know what parents, teachers, family members, guardians, and others can do to help prevent youth suicide and the resources that are available.
Warning Signs That a Teen May Be Considering Suicide
While many factors can lead to one committing suicide, children or teens that are contemplating suicide may exhibit one or more of the following behaviors:
- Lack of purpose in school or life in general
- Difficulty focusing
- Sudden lack of interest in hobbies
- Dependence on alcohol or drugs
- Violent or extreme risk-taking behavior
- Becoming distant from close friends and family
- Signs of distress or sadness after being bullied at school
- Low confidence or self esteem
Tips to Help Prevent Youth Suicide
Below are just some of the steps that can be taken to offer support to children and teenagers going through tough times in their lives.
1. Take initiative and offer a listening ear.
If your child is displaying feelings of sadness or being moody, it is not always wise to look the other way and wait for things to calm down. Sometimes these displays are a cry for help – especially when a child tries to isolate themselves. It is important for children to know that their parents are aware of their feelings and there for support. Rather than waiting on your child to come to you when there is a problem, consider tackling the situation headfirst by asking your child if they are okay and letting them know that you are there for them if they want to talk. Little gestures like that can go a long way and just might be what it takes to get your child to open up.
2. Have family discussions about the issues and available resources.
The topics of depression and suicide can be touchy ones to say the least, and many children are not receptive to lecturing. That is why it is crucial to have family discussions about issues that may be affecting your child, e.g. bullying and depression, with you, the parent, leading the discussion by sharing your own experiences. Many children tend to relate when a parent lays the groundwork for a conversation by sharing personal experiences on the topic at hand. Let your child know that they are not alone and that many people have gone through similar experiences. It is also important to let them know that there are resources available, such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), which is a 24-hour, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline available to anyone in emotional distress or suicidal crisis.
3. Schedule an appointment with a mental health provider for your child.
Sometimes talking with family and friends is not enough to remedy a situation. In these instances, you should seek counseling or therapy for your child is he or she is not in danger of self-harm. Due to their training and outside perspective, counselors can often see and isolate issues that a child is dealing with that the parents are unable to identify. However, if your child is at immediate risk of self-harm due to suicidal activity, you should contact a mental health crisis team in your area to discuss the best way to help your child. Youth behavioral treatment facilities can also provide suicidal youth with beneficial treatment and around-the-clock care.
4. Lock up any and all guns in the house.
Gun permits and licenses allow ordinary citizens to legally carry guns and certain firearms. These are largely regulated by state law. While adults can legally possess guns, it is important to understand that they play a large role in youth suicides each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, studies show that in homes with guns, the risk of suicide can be 4 to 10 times higher than in homes without guns. Further, children and teens who commit suicide by gunshot are less likely to survive than those who attempt it by drugs or other methods. Thus, safety experts and medical professionals urge parents to lock up their guns, keep them unloaded, use trigger locks, and not give children access to where the guns are stored.