Teen Suicide Prevention: When Should You Be Concerned?

The rate of suicide in teenagers is alarmingly high, but with the societal taboo on suicide, you may be unclear which behaviors are symptoms of suicide and which are not. Regardless, if you are worried for your child's safety as a result of their behavior, it is likely they need counseling whether or not they are experiencing suicidal thoughts. However, knowing the signs and symptoms are a necessary way to determine the severity of your child's situation. Here are a few alarming behaviors and whether or not your child is at risk.

teen with arms crossed head down contemplating

Self-Harm, Cutting or Otherwise

Self-harm is an act many teenagers commit. Best known is cutting, but self-harm can take many forms including, self-starvation, burning, substance abuse, avoidance of sleep, poor eating habits, and hitting inanimate objects. Of course, all of these behaviors are worrisome and likely will require counseling. Yet contrary to popular belief, self-harmers are usually not suicidal.

Self-harm is a coping method employed by many teens to stay alive. Many report needing to "feel alive" and utilizing self-harm to remind themselves that they exist and have purpose. Others say they self-harm to numb emotional pain; pain that would otherwise cause them to feel suicidal. Though cutting in particular often seems like a suicide attempt, it is actually an attempt to avoid suicide.

If your child is self-harming, remain calm and understanding. If they are in such emotional turmoil that they feel the need to injure themselves, the last thing they need is the guilt of making you upset. From there, seek professional help. If professional help is out of your reach, you may want to offer some ways to wean your child off of self-harm such as snapping a rubber band on their wrists, holding an ice cube, drawing red lines where they might normally cut, and other such replacements.

Discussion of Dying or Loss of the Desire to Live

Many people incorrectly believe that if a person talks about wanting to die, they are simply seeking attention. However in actuality, most suicidal people will mention their desire to end their life in a final attempt to get help. Never take discussion of death lightly.

If your child mentions wanting to die or how they might prefer to die, take it seriously. Sit them down, have an open, calm discussion about suicide and their mental state. Listen and ask questions but under no circumstances are you to make the discussion about how their suffering affects you. Turning things around onto yourself will make the teen feel guilty, ashamed, and unheard.

Isolation from Friends and Family

Isolation from family is not necessarily a cause for concern. If your child does not feel secure in your home, they are less likely to want to spend time there. For example, if your family is intolerant of the LGBTQA community and your teen is concealing the fact that they are gay, it is only natural that they would want to spend time with friends they can be themselves around.

However withdrawing from all loved ones is a definite sign of depression and suicide. Even if the isolation is not by choice, lack of socialization can be the cause of depression and suicidal thoughts. Seek professional help and consider getting your teen involved with social groups such as hobby clubs, sports, or school activities.

Depression and suicide are all too common in teens. With the current statistics, preventing suicide can seem like a monumental task. In reality, suicide prevention is more often a matter of talking openly with your teen, listening calmly, and creating an accepting, loving atmosphere in the home.

It is important to remember that even the most loving and accepting family can produce a teen with depression. This is where listening comes into play. If your child tells you that they are depressed, it is your job to listen and get them the help they need. Something as simple as that can prevent that depression from worsening and resulting in suicidal thoughts.

Image via Pixabay by bngdesigns

What To Live For?

I know a lot of people that were once suicidal, or who frequently battle suicidal feelings.  And every time I talk to them when they are struggling, they ask me the same question "what do I have to live for?" I have to take a step back and think. What do you tell someone who has horrible circumstances, who thinks they have no other way out? If they don't see what they have to live for, how can you make them see? How can you see yourself?

I always come back to the same answer though. I tell them they have their future to live for. The future is never set in stone; every choice we make can change our future. When all hope seems to be gone, and they are tired of holding on, you are battling a suicidal person for THEIR life. And it's not an easy battle; it's an uphill battle; it's a battle that they will try their hardest to make you lose. And the only credit you get when and if you win that battle is the satisfaction of saving somebody's life.

I know it is hard to help a suicidal person, and if you start getting overwhelmed yourself, you should encourage them to talk to a professional. The most important thing to remember is that you are NOT responsible for a suicidal person's actions. In reality, you are not responsible for anyone else's actions. You can reach out a helping hand, and when they ask you what they have to live for, you can remind them that the future is never predetermined.

The God File.

"When I see black and white photographs in one of the books from the prison library, I am struck by the clarity and depth that we don't see in a color photograph. I think that this must be the reason why most animals are color blind. They must capture movement exactly. They cannot afford any less. A dulling of the edges, a touch away from precision, and their lives are lost."

"Like Eddie Mueller, animals are spared the gift of suicide. They can't see color, and they don't kill themselves. We are allowed to see deep blue skies, blood-red roses, and baseball fields of green. But all around the world, from one end to the other, thousands die every day. We slit our wrists, stick guns in our mouths, jump off bridges, and put ourselves to sleep with golden little pills. They say only a coward commits suicide. That's not fair. It's to simple. Only a person without the courage to consider the other possibilities would try to make it so simple. I am not afraid to hide."

"I am given the choice to kill myself. I have preserved the idea of suicide as one of my only freedoms, but I cannot do it. Why not? It is this choice against a clear, protected option, every single day, which is the proof of the existence of God."

"I don't kill myself because somewhere in my mind I know that the next moment is a gift. The next emotion will hold some joy, even in it's disgusting sadness...."

"Wanting to End Life?" - A Suicidal's Call For Help.

It feels as though no one listen to you; your best friend has moved away and you don't think anyone else cares. You are having trouble at school and with your parents. Each morning when you awaken, you feel like you just want to go back to sleep and never get up. Life seems to be moving too fast and it feels as though you may never catch up. It's feelings like these that make some of us feel as though ending our lives would be better than enduring them. After all, is there any point to living a life of pain? Usually, when we reach this point, we start out slow, maybe by using a knife or a razor to cut ourselves. For awhile, we are given relief. Did you know that when we cut ourselves there is a chemical in our brain, called endorphin, that is released to the site of the injury to provide relief? No wonder cutting is addictive! So, we cut ourselves, hoping against hope that someone will see the marks on our bodies and get us the help we not only know we need but that we WANT too. Eventually, though, we begin to realize that cutting offers only temporary relief and no one has talked about our silent cry for help so we move on to more drastic measures to end our lives. But we don't really want to die. If we did, if we truly wanted to die, then we wouldn't wear short sleeves so others could see the marks left by cutting, we wouldn't let others know we are on drugs, we wouldn't tell anybody or email anybody about how we really feel. Did you know that nearly everyone who completes suicide has asked for help, has given warning signs of their intentions? Why would we do that if we genuinely wanted to die? Why do something that we don't really want to do? It can be very hard - very hard to have to go through loneliness and it can be hard to feel misunderstood but take a look back on your life. When you were in the fourth, fifth, sixth or seventh grade, your first boyfriend moved to a different state and you thought you'd never heal. But you did. There have been problems in your life before that made you feel hopeless but from which you recovered. Likewise, the troubles that you're facing now are temporary; they are not permanent problems. One day, sooner than you probably think, you'll be able to leave your parents' home and make choices of your own for your life. One day you'll fall in love with someone who will love you just as much.

Life is a mixture of blessings with strife and I know how it feels to be all alone and frightened. I myself have attempted suicide several times, until I realized that I did not really want to kill myself. YOU DON'T EITHER. Each of us have a very special and unique purpose on this earth; a purpose that when we find it, will provide us with love and joy. Wouldn't it be a terrible shame to end life just days before you find that joy? Life is unexpected and that means that we often find hope and joy when we least expect it.

What do you do if you've decided not kill yourself but the pain still hasn't gone away? The number one thing to do is praise yourself, give yourself credit for having the courage to live, instead of die. Then realize that as much as we would like to think otherwise, people usually are not as perceptive as we would like to think they are and that means that we have to reach out and tell them how we feel, flat out and directly, instead of subtly. There are lots of people (and places) that are wanting to help you: they just need to know that you need help. Think of it as a dangerous addiction and just as people who are alcoholics have to get themselves to an AA meeting to begin to heal, suicidal people have to to say, "I want to kill myself" to someone; a school counselor, a pastor, an adult that you trust and believe in. The counseling and group support that you'll receive when you do this will open whole new doors of light to your life.

Below, I've highlighted a few facts and statistics about suicide. Hopefully, the information will help others become more aware of hurting youths around them and will help show suicidal people that they really are not alone:

  • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among people 14-18 years old. Nearly all suicidal people ask for help.
  • Suicide is 8 times more likely in gay youth than it is in heterosexual youth.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide, while boys are more likely to succeed at suicide.
  • Suicide is 4 times as likely among those who have been abused.
  • Suicide tends to run in families, but it is NOT hereditary.
  • Suicide knows no economic class. It affects the poor, middle and upper classes equally.
  • It is common for suicidal people to express genuine happiness prior to the suicide. They are happy because they have found a way out of the pain: suicide.
  • It can be prevented. Some guidelines for those who need help helping a suicidal person:
    • Never leave a suicidal person alone
    • Ask anyone who is depressed whether they want to die. Contrary to many fears, speaking of suicide can actually save a life. Don't be afraid to use the words "death" "dying" and/or "suicide". It will make the suicidal person feel more comfortable in telling how they really feel.
    • Ask if they have a plan. Again, don't be afraid to say, "So, how would you do it? With a gun?" Any idea that you might suggest are ideas they have already thought about. You will not "plant" ideas in their heads.
    • If suicide is imminent - for example: if their plan includes a weapon of choice, and if they have access to the weapon of choice, call the police.
    • Because they do not want to die, suicidal people will usually keep any promise they make. So, make a suicidal person promise you they will contact you before they commit suicide. This will give you time to contact the proper help.
    • When talking with a suicidal person, use the word complete suicide instead of commit suicide. Commit implies that they are committing a crime or doing something wrong and that brings about feelings of guilt to the suicidal.
    • Encourage them to talk with an adult. If you feel that you are unable to handle their problems (which is perfectly okay as suicidal peopledo need professional help) then tell an adult and let that adult take over.
    • Pray. Pray alone for the person and in groups. The Bible says that when two or more people are gathered in his name, then He is among them. He does not want anyone to complete suicide. Pray There are a lot of people in this world who are hurting and believe me, sometimes merely feeling misunderstood is reason enough to end life. But your life is very, very important and help is just one conversation away.

NOTE: the National, US number for suicide is 1-800-SUICIDE and nearly every other country has a suicide hotline.

Suicide - It Is Not The Answer!

As many times as you have been told this, suicide is NOT the answer!!! Every single one of you is here for a reason, and when it is your time to go then you will be taken.

You feel that no one cares, but there is at least one person that deep heartedly cares for you. It may not be obvious to you though at times, but there IS a person who cares for you this much!!!! There is so much held in the future just awaiting all of you. If you end you life now you won't get to see what is waiting for you.

Ending your life is not going to solve anything; it will only make things worse. You are hurting so many people if you commit suicide. Think to yourself, if you die, is it worth hurting your friends (YES EVERYONE HAS AT LEAST ONE FRIEND, so don't tell me you don't have any), mom, dad, and other family? Is it worth losing everything that you had waiting for you in life? Is it worth missing out on all of the things you will be missing out on? IS SUICIDE WORTH ALL OF THIS??? HELL NO!!!