Adolescents can be challenging to understand. Sometimes it’s hard to know how they feel or what they think. As parents, we become concerned and worried about our children’s behavior.
It’s important to become your own expert about the signs and symptoms that indicate that a teenager is at risk for suicide.
- Contact a mental health professional right away. Don’t wait. Seek professional help immediately. Call a local mental health agency for crisis support or go to your local emergency room if you think your teenager is actively suicidal and in danger of hurting themselves.
- Never ignore threats of suicide. Don’t assume is a dramatic cry for help. Take all talk of ending one’s life seriously. Warning signs should be attended to and not ignored. Learn information and develop a plan.
- Listen to your teens verbal and notice non-verbal communication. Teenagers experiencing loss, substance abuse issues, social pressure, bullying, severe emotional or physical pain, and have access to weapons are at high risk.
- Don’t let your teen’s mental health (depression, bipolar disorder, or anxiety) go without treatment. Tell them you are concerned that they seem sad and ask them what you can do to help. Seek professional help.
- Talk to your teenager about your concerns. Be caring, compassionate, non-judgmental, hopeful, and reassuring
- Encourage getting Exercises like walking, swimming, or aerobics can help the brain emit endorphins that enhance mood and decrease depressed feelings. Working out, dancing or jogging can also distract your teen from the issues that might contribute to their emotional pain.
- Increase the safety in your home. Lock up guns, medications and store away razors or other items until the crisis has passed.
- Encourage your son/daughter to be patient with the process of getting better. This didn’t happen overnight and it won’t change overnight either. Don’t expect immediate results. Psychotherapy coupled with psychotropic medications take time to improve mood.
- Strongly encourage your teen not to isolate themselves from family and/or friends. Being around other people is better for them than being alone. If they refuse do not pressure them.
- Encourage your adolescent not to be so hard on themselves with unrealistic expectations. Urge them to be gentle and to pace themselves. They need support, encouragement, and time to rebuild self-esteem, confidence, and strength. Suggest low-stress activities.
If you are unsure if your teenager is thinking of ending their life, ASK! Expressing your concerns to a teen who might be planning to die by suicide is one of the most compassionate acts you can take.
Keep the Suicide Prevention Hotline number around.
Pamela K. Williams, LCPC, CCTP