Suicide is the third leading cause of death for kids, ages 15-24, and continues to be a developing concern. With roughly 1,700 adolescents annually completing suicide attempts, there has been a significant push towards increasing awareness, prevention, and support resources for students, parents, teachers and care givers.
The following outlines some warning signs as well as steps that can be taken to prevent adolescent suicide. It needs to be said that not all children who present with some of the warning signs below are suicidal, it is important that you communicate with your children and assess their individual situations and needs.
Warning Signs of Suicide
- Talking about death and dying – Discussing death can be a normative part of a child’s development, but a sudden increase or fixation of death and dying could be a warning factor
- No future planning – As children, and adults, we plan for our futures and often discuss them with others. Individuals struggling with suicidal ideation often feel no hope for their future, and cannot express thoughts, hopes, or wishes that things could change or get better.
- Recent loss – It is always important to support our children when they have experienced a recent loss; attuning to our child’s grieving process is an important component of supporting them.
- Changes in sleep or eating habits – Any drastic or sudden changes to sleeping or eating habits that cannot be explained by another medical/social condition should be monitored.
- Changes in behavior – Unexpected changes in performance at school, home, work, or with peers; often noted as “difficulty focusing.”
- Changes in mood – Presenting as down, depressed, withdrawn, reclusive, angry or lonely can be warning signs. Some individuals also become elated or very happy prior to an attempt; emotional presentation that may be inappropriate given circumstances
Things You Can Do
Develop a positive relationship with your kids: Talk to your kids on a consistent basis about their day-to-day life; encourage appropriate expressions of emotions; provide a safe and stable home environment; spend quality time; listen without judgment.
Provide a Safe Environment: Do not keep firearms or other potentially lethal means in your home, or if necessary, keep them securely locked away without access.
Take threats seriously: Regardless if you believe this to be “real” or not, the youth is trying to express a need and reach out for support.
Provide resources and support: For kids struggling with mental health concerns, provide access to care and support. Have access within your home to crisis hotline numbers, or emergency contacts your kids can reach out to for support.
Suicide Prevention Toolkit: http://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4669/SMA12-4669.pdf
You Matter Campaign: http://www.youmatter.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Berman, A., Jobes, D., & Silverman, M., (2006) Adolescent suicide: Assessment and intervention (2nd ed.) Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 456 pp.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or 1-800-273-TALK
NSPT offers services in Bucktown, Evanston, Highland Park, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Lake Bluff, Des Plaines, Hinsdale and Milwaukee. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (847) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates!