Thoughtful Parenting: Youth suicide prevention — it’s your business.
July 2, 2017
Remember summertime growing up as a teenager? Many of ours were fun-filled and full of adventure. Camping with friends, going on road trips or hanging at a friend's house for a barbecue were always enjoyed.
Unfortunately, for many of today's teens, that's simply not the case. Some teens are suddenly withdrawn from their peers, have a rare lack of motivation, begin to sleep or cry excessively or refuse to communicate. As parents, we need to recognize that these signs may be a leading risk factors in teen depression and may mean your child needs help.
A teenager is not always going to share their feelings of depression or suicidal thoughts, so it's our job to start the conversation. Talking with teens about suicide can be very difficult, but communication and education saves lives. By the time you know for certain if a teen is seriously considering suicide, it may be too late.
According to The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide, there are steps you can take to begin the conversation with your child.
Start by acknowledging your child's feelings. Let him or her know many other teens express these thoughts.
Secondly, reassure them that, if they begin to have these thoughts, it is safe to talk to you, because you love and care about them.
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Finally, ask the question: Are you thinking about suicide? Suicide is preventable, and you can help prevent it by reaching out.
Parents are encouraged to access The Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicides website, sptsusa.org, to view a free video titled "Not my Kid … What Every Parent Should Know."
Common myths surrounding suicide include the following.
- Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.
Fact: You do not give a person ideas about suicide by talking about it. The opposite is true. Talking about suicide provides the opportunity for communication. Fears that are shared are more likely to diminish.
- Myth: If a person attempts suicide and survives, he or she will never make a further attempt.
Fact: A suicide attempt is regarded as an indicator of further attempts, and it is likely the level of danger will increase with each further attempt.
- Myth: People who threaten suicide are just seeking attention.
Fact: All suicide attempts must be treated as though the person has the intent to die. Do not dismiss a suicide attempt as simply being an attention-gaining device. It is likely the young person has tried to gain attention and, therefore, this attention is needed. The attention they get may well save their life.
Some statistics about suicide include the following.
- Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teenagers in Colorado.
- More American teenagers die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia and influenza and chronic lung disease combined.
- In the next 24 hours, 1,429 teens will attempt suicide
- Suicide can be prevented.
It's difficult for parents to understand what would motivate a young person to take his or her own life. Changes in the behavior of a child are often seen as phases — just a part of adolescence. This may or may not be the case.
Further, many parents feel as if they are unprepared in a crisis situation and are afraid to say or do the wrong thing for fear they will make things worse.
Fortunately, there are many local and state resources available to assist you and your loved one in a time of crisis. To learn more, call or text Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide at 970-819-2232 or Mind Springs Health at 888-207-4004.
If you know a teenager (or anyone) who might be thinking about suicide and are not sure what to do, start by calling the toll-free National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800- 273-TALK (8255)
Don't find out the hard way. Start the conversation.
Mindy Marriott is executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide.