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Understanding Teen Suicide


That always seems to be the question that everyone asks when a loved one or friend has committed suicide.  Unfortunately, there is not always a clear-cut answer to that question.  The Center for Disease Control reports suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds.

Who is at Risk?

There are several risk factors relating to teen suicide.  A teen who is contemplating suicide may show these symptoms:

  • diagnosis of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder
  • family stress from divorce, blended family issues, a military parent on active duty, financial issues
  • social problems such as a relationship ending, bully victimization, feeling isolated

What are the Warning Signs?

Most teens who are thinking about suicide leave signs that they are in trouble.  If you notice any of these signs, do not hesitate to talk to your teen about what he/she is thinking or feeling.

  • Talking about suicide, death, or not wanting to be in this world
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Distancing from family and/or friends
  • Problems at school or losing interest in school
  • Giving away treasured items
  • Changes in eating and sleep habits

If you suspect your teen is contemplating suicide, ask the question.  Asking a teen if they have been thinking about hurting themselves is not going to put the idea in their heads.  If they are, you will be able to get them help.  If they are not, your interest will show them you care.

Often, adults think the behavior is just attention-seeking and so they discount or minimize what the teen is going through.  While it may be true, most of the time, those warning signs are cries for help.  Talk to your teen.  Ask him/her the hard questions.  Take it seriously.

What’s next?

If you have determined your teen is contemplating suicide, or if you are concerned about changes in his/her behavior, take action.  Talk to the school counselor or the teen’s physician or professional counselor/therapist.  You can call 800-SUICIDE or take your teen to the ER for an evaluation.  You can make an appointment for your teen to begin mental health counseling. Teens may say they feel better or use some other ruse to keep from being evaluated.  Even if they do, you can talk to a professional and together work to get your teen the help he/she needs.

What if the Unfathomable Happens?

The death of a teen is heartbreaking.  Family members, friends, and classmates may struggle with feelings of guilt, anger, fear and grief.  It is important that those who are left to deal with the loss take care to get help if necessary.  Talk to your family, friends, pastor or therapist.  Some people feel that they must be strong for those around them and neglect to take care of their own emotional needs.  Everyone needs support.

Death at any age is devastating to those left behind.  Teen suicide is especially heart-breaking. Sometimes suicide can be prevented.  Look for the warning signs and seek help immediately.

If you or your teen need professional help to work through the heartbreak of teen suicide, or your teen needs counseling, please reach out to Legacy Counseling Service at www.legacycounselingservice.com.  Legacy has many mental health professionals who can help elementary, teen, adults, and families cope with the grief, depression, confusion and anxiety that you may be feeling.

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