to Say It to Teens
by Richard Heyman, Ed.D.
A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Years by Susan
by Tania K. Cowling
some time in their lives, will experience periods of anxiety, sadness,
and despair. These are normal reactions to the pain of loss, rejection,
or disappointment. However, teens with serious mental illness will
often experience much more extreme reactions, some that can leave
them embroiled in hopelessness. And when all hope is lost, teens can
feel that suicide is the only solution. It isn’t!
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, scientific data
has shown that almost all people who take their own lives have a diagnosable
mental or substance abuse disorder, and the majority have more than
one disorder. Therefore, the feelings that often lead to suicide are
highly treatable. This is why it is so important
to better understand the symptoms to look for in these disorders.
There are many behavioral indicators that can help parents and friends
recognize the threat of suicide in a teen. Even though some of these
symptoms are not always a precursor of a dangerous mental illness,
they shouldn’t be overlooked. If these symptoms seem unusual
for your teen,
PLEASE seek help:
- Loss of
interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
loss or gain in appetite
falling asleep or wanting to sleep all day
or loss of energy
of worthlessness or guilt
from family and friends
of personal appearance or hygiene
irritability, or indifference
anxiety or panic
destructive, or defiant behavior
- Poor school
or unusual beliefs
If you suspect
that your teenager might be thinking about suicide, do not remain silent.
Suicide is preventable, but you must act quickly.
- Ask your
teenager about his unusual behaviors.
- Work on
a close, positive relationship with your child. This can be a life-saving
safety valve to the depressed and troubled youth.
be afraid to say the word “suicide” if you think it may
be an option. Getting the word out in the open may help your teen
think someone has heard his cries for help. Support and early intervention
can be effective in this matter.
your teen that you love him. Remind your child that no matter how
awful his problems seem, they can be worked out, and you are willing
- Ask your
teen to talk about his problems. Listen carefully. Do not dismiss
the problems or get angry.
all potentially lethal weapons from your home, including guns, pills,
kitchen utensils, and ropes.
- Seek professional
help. Ask your teen’s doctor to guide you. A variety of outpatient
and hospital-based treatment programs are available.
Here are two important
phone numbers that your teen should be aware of if he needs help. If
your teen is in a serious crisis, take him directly to the nearest emergency
- A national
crisis hotline links callers to local crisis centers: 1-800-SUICIDE.
- For crisis
hotline help, call the Covenant House nine-line: 1-800-999-9999
- We can
guide our children toward their own problem-solving skills, their
own reasoning techniques, and help them arrive at their own unique
Teenage Suicide: Identification, Intervention and Prevention ERIC Identifier
ED266338 Author Lori J. Peters