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Teen Suicide: How to Help Your Teen

Sep 9, 2023

Being a teen can be stressful, and as our society becomes more complex, teenagers face a growing number of stressors that can put them at risk for suicide. From the pressures of academic performance and peer expectations to the negative impact of social media, young people are confronted with a range of challenges that can be difficult to navigate. Unfortunately, suicide has become a major concern in the United States, particularly among teenagers. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it was the 11th leading cause of death for people ages 10 and over in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened matters by exacerbating feelings of isolation and psychological distress. Social media has also been a contributing factor, as it can amplify negative feedback and worsen symptoms. Girls may face additional challenges related to sexual violence, while issues like breakups, friendship loss, and family trauma can be overwhelming. Despite the progress made in mental health awareness, many teenagers are still suffering in silence, dealing with emotional pain, and turning to self-harm and suicide as a way to cope.

 

Why Choose Suicide

Teen suicide is a devastating issue that affects far too many families. Tragically, many teens who attempt or commit suicide struggle with mental illness. The stress of being a teenager can be overwhelming, and sadly, they may not realize that they can turn the situation around. A teen may consider suicide as a means to an end for many reasons, including feelings of rejection, failure, breakups, school troubles, or family problems. Other contributing factors may include:

Bullying -As students return to school, many will face the trauma of being bullied. The consequences of bullying can be severe and cannot be overstated. Research has shown that bullying can worsen depression and increase the risk of suicide, particularly among vulnerable teenagers. Cyberbullying, which can follow children and teenagers everywhere they go, has made the situation even worse. The impact of bullying is profound, leading to the questioning of self-worth, appearance, identity, and relationships.

Social Media has become an integral part of our lives, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. While it provides access to information, people, and ideas, it also has a darker side. This constant connectedness can lead to unattainable standards being broadcasted to the entire world, negatively impacting teenagers’ self-image and mental health. The obsession with instant gratification and the need for validation based on the number of likes and followers can take a toll on teenagers’ self-esteem. Impulsive by nature, teens tend to be drawn to behavior that gets attention, and social media has become a breeding ground for outrageous behavior among teenagers, and the consequences can be severe. With the fear of missing out (FOMO) driving their actions, teens often fail to consider the potential harm of their actions. They may be more interested in getting likes and comments on their posts than in the consequences of their behavior. This is particularly concerning when it comes to dangerous activities like misusing medications or household items.

 Life changes, such as transitioning into college life, can be another contributing factor as teens face new challenges that can cause stress and anxiety. The demands of academic coursework, adjusting to a new environment, and developing a new support system can be overwhelming. In addition, experimentation with alcohol and other drugs can lead to mood problems and increase the risk of suicide. College students should be aware of these challenges and learn effective coping strategies to manage stress and avoid substance abuse. Such systems could include:

  • Seeking support from family and friends.

  • Joining campus organizations.

  • Utilizing campus resources such as counseling services.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember…the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” Henry Ford

Is Your Teen Suicidal

Be on the lookout for behaviors that may indicate that your teen may be contemplating suicide. Are they…

 Talking about:

  • Wanting to die

  • Tremendous amounts of guilt or shame

  • Being a burden to others

Exhibiting feelings of:

  • Emptiness, hopelessness, or having no reason to live

  • Extremely sad, anxious, agitated, or full of rage

  • Unbearably emotional or in unexplained physical pain

Changing behavior by:

  • Making a plan or researching ways to die

  • Withdrawing from friends, saying goodbye, giving away essential items, or making a will

  • Displaying extreme mood swings

  • Changes in routines, such as eating and sleeping patterns

  • Using drugs or alcohol more often

How to Help Your Teen

Feelings of guilt and shame or being judged and misunderstood often prevent teens from reaching out for help, but we can change the narrative by listening to our teens and letting them know that they are not alone and that there is help.

You play a crucial role in your teen’s safety. Knowing what signs to look for, reducing the stigma around suicide, and checking in with and supporting your teen can make all the difference in the world.

1. Acknowledge their feelings and offer support.

As caretakers, it is nescessary to acknowledge and validate your teen’s emotions. Their feelings are valid and should be treated as such. Instead of imposing your perspective on a given situation, prioritize supporting your teen. Act as a sounding board, actively listen to their concerns and create a safe space for them to express themselves. Let your teen discuss their feelings, but also be prepared to provide spiritual, emotional, and personal support. Additionally, offer problem-solving and coping techniques that could help improve the situation. By validating your teen’s emotions and providing them with the necessary support and guidance, you can foster a stronger adult-child relationship and help them navigate through life’s challenges.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

It can be overwhelming and distressing to notice concerning changes in your teen. However, acting immediately and being proactive when you see a change is critical. One way to start is by asking your teen if they struggle with suicidal ideation or self-harm. Contrary to popular belief, asking this question will not worsen the situation, but rather, it can be the first step to helping your teen. If your teen confides in you that they are struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harm, it is essential to take the situation seriously. Lovingly express your concerns and ask how you can help. Seeking professional help is also crucial in these situations.

Remember, having this type of talk with your teen may seem daunting, but taking a direct approach and confronting the issue head-on is the best way to help them. No one wants to see a child in pain, and being there for your teen and seeking the necessary help can make a significant difference in their life.

3. Remind them of their resilience

Effective communication with your teen is key to building their resilience. It’s important to regularly check in with them and ask about their emotions and experiences. By reviewing past challenges, you can help your teen understand that problems are temporary and that they can overcome them. Validate their concerns while gently reminding them of their past successes in developing resilience tools. Doing so will equip your teen with the skills and mindset needed to overcome future challenges and thrive.

4. Monitor social media usage

In a digital age where social media dominates, it’s essential for parents to understand that it’s not all bad. Social media can offer positive benefits if used appropriately. As a parent, you have the power to shape your teens’ social media habits and promote healthy usage.

First and foremost, encourage your teen to develop resilience. Teach them that not everything they see or experience on social media is a true reflection of reality. Have open conversations with them about how they use social media and its potential impact on others. Help them understand the importance of using social media to find friends or connect with people for positive reasons.

Establishing tech-free zones or times can significantly limit your teens’ social media usage and encourage them to engage in other activities. Designate specific times, such as dinnertime or bedtime, where electronic devices are put away, allowing for quality family time or undisturbed rest. Pay close attention to your teens’ behavior and note any changes that might signal depression or suicidal thoughts. Teach them how to monitor their emotions and provide them with the necessary tools to seek help. Ensure they understand there are safe places to turn to, such as trusted adults, helplines, or support groups.

5. Seek Professional help.

Help is available. You and your teen are not alone. Many treatment options exist for those suffering from suicidal ideation and/or self-harm. If you notice your teen is exhibiting signs of suicidal thoughts, find a therapist in your area to aid in developing coping techniques and emotional support. You can also find resources and support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. In case of emergency, call 911 or the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

It’s important to understand that several factors can contribute to teen suicide, including social media use, family trauma, and even sexual violence. Experts caution that teenagers view the world in absolute terms, making problems seem more daunting, and solutions seem less likely. As parents and caregivers, be aware of the warning signs of suicide, such as changes in behavior, mood, and sleep patterns. Also talk openly and honestly with teenagers about their feelings and to seek professional help if necessary.

Sources:

2023. Suicide and Self-Harm Injury. CDC/National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

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restoretranquility.org

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