Suicide is in the news and in popular entertainment now more than ever, especially regarding teens. Parents can play a role in building up their child’s mental health simply by becoming aware of the risk factors and warning signs that can lead to suicide. Making yourself available to your child, knowing how to practice having a caring conversation, and being aware that help is always available.
There’s no single cause for suicide. Suicide most often occurs when stressors and health issues converge to create an experience of hopelessness and despair. Depression is the most common condition associated with suicide, and it is often undiagnosed or untreated. Conditions like depression, anxiety, and substance problems, especially when unaddressed, increase risk for suicide. Yet it’s important to note that most people who actively manage their mental health conditions go on to engage in life.
As a parent you might be asking yourself, what can I do to be better informed?
Beware of the risk factors: Risk factors are characteristics or conditions that increase the chance that a person may try to take their life.
- Health: mental health conditions, traumatic brain injury, serious physical health condition resulting in pain.
- Environment: access to lethal means, prolonged stress related to harassment, bullied, relationship issues, or exposure to another person’s suicide or attempt.
- Historical: previous suicide attempt, family history of attempts, childhood trauma/neglect
And warning signs: Something to look out for when concerned that a person may be suicidal is a change in behavior or the presence of entirely new behaviors.
- Talk, if a person talks about: Killing themselves, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, unbearable pain
- Behaviors: Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change.
- Mood: People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods: depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation, agitation, sudden improvement.
- Access to mental health care, and being proactive about mental health
- Problem solving and coping skills
- Limited access to lethal means.
Resources for parents and teens
- If you are in crisis or are experiencing difficult or suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273 TALK (8255)
- If you’re uncomfortable talking on the phone, you can also text NAMI to 741-741 to be connected to a free, trained crisis counselor on the Crisis Text Line.
- The Trevor Project for LGBTQ: 1-866-488-7386 or text 678-678
- Contra Costa County Crisis Center, call 211 or 1-800-833-2900 or text ‘HOPE’ 20121
- If you or someone you know is in an emergency, call 911 immediately.
Remember parents Be There, children and teens are more likely to feel less depressed, less suicidal, less overwhelmed, and more hopeful after speaking to someone who listens without judgment. By staying informed, being aware of the risk factors, we can help children and teens to better cope and problem solve through those tough times.
By: Sarah Kral, AMFT, ATR-P