Suicide is the second leading cause of death in teenagers according to the most recent year on record, 2015, by the Centers for Disease Control.
A misconception is that suicide is sparked by one factor, such as a break up, when in reality, it’s multiple causes including psychiatric illnesses, but parents should know, this serious situation is completely preventable.
The first thing parents and guardians can do is notice any subtle changes in behavior.
“It sounds very simple, but we can get very caught up in our day-to-day lives being very busy, active families,” Shannon Oakes, suicide prevention coordinator for Chemung County, said. “Parents have things going on. Kids have things going on.”
Warning signs can include a drop in school grades, neglecting their appearance, or increased outbursts.
“There may be some changes in their eating and sleeping patterns, or they turn to drugs and alcohol, aren’t interested in activities they were previously,” Dr. Foram Gandhi, pediatrician at Guthrie Corning Centerway said. “They may start engaging in self-harm behavior such as cutting or engaging in extreme diet.”
When it comes to taking action, Oakes says it’s a myth that asking about suicide will plant those ideas in the child’s head. It’s suggested to take a sensitive approach that is compassionate to create an open line of communication.
“You can say, ‘I’ve noticed this is going on lately, and I’ve seen these changes in you, and I’m worried. Are you having thoughts of suicide?'” Oakes said.
The child may admit to their feelings or deny what’s going on inside. Either way, it’s not recommended to dismiss or downplay whatever they tell you, whether it’s one bad grade or a break up over a short-lived relationship, telling them it’s not a big deal or to get over it is damaging.
For professional help, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK .
A trained person will calmly and confidentially walk you through help no matter your location. They will even get in contact with your local resources for to you see someone in person.
Teens can also utilize the Crisis Text Line, also available 24/7, if they don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone over the phone. Text HOME to 741741 to get started.
Another misconception is that teens are highest age group for suicide, but really, middle aged men from 44-65 years old have the highest numbers in the United States.