Warning: Is Your Teen Having Suicidal Thoughts?

Published on August 13th, 2014

Teenagers are notoriously surly and withdrawn. As a parent, you wonder what happened to the sweet little child who never wanted to leave your side.

Most of the time when teenagers act out and push away their parents, they’re being normal teens. However, some things that seem like normal teenage behavior are actually signs your teen is having suicidal thoughts.

Many parents find it hard to understand why their teens would ever feel suicidal. However, suicide is one of the leading causes of death for adolescents and young adults. So how do you differentiate normal teen behavior from red flags? And if your teen does feel troubled, how do you help?

Why Do Some Teens Have Suicidal Thoughts?

More life changes happen during the teen years and early 20s than any other time of life. Some teenagers have a hard time handling all the changes and pressure these years bring. Teens can develop suicidal thoughts in response to depression.

Depression

Most teens who attempt suicide suffer from untreated depression. This disease is the leading cause of suicidal thoughts. Many factors can cause depression:

  • Chemical imbalance
  • Problems at home
  • Problems at school
  • Substance abuse

Symptoms of depression include sadness, anxiety, mood swings, and dramatic behavioral changes. Unfortunately, these are also symptoms of being a teenager. However, if you strongly suspect depression, don’t leave the issue untreated.

To determine if your teen has depression or is just going through a normal phase, talk to your teen. If he or she refuses to talk to you about the issue, enlist a counselor’s help.

If your teen has depression, you’ll want to start treatment as soon as possible. Medication can often help, especially with a chemical imbalance.

If your teen’s depression is a symptom of a larger problem, such as problems at home, let your teen know you’re on his or her side.

Tension among family members, big moves, or divorce can make teens feel unstable. Bullies and peer pressure at school can also make your teen’s daily life difficult. You can help by making sure your teen has a strong support system and a constant advocate.

What Are Signs of Suicidal Thoughts?

If your teen suffers from depression and you think he or she has suicidal thoughts, you should watch out for warning signs, including:

  • Frequently talking about death
  • Feeling hopeless for the future
  • Experiencing self-hatred
  • Withdrawing from other people
  • Saying goodbye to people
  • Seeking access to deadly items or weapons
  • Self-harming

To look for symptoms of things like self-harm, notice changes in how your teen dresses. Does he or she suddenly insist on wearing long-sleeved shirts? Does your teen take special care to cover body parts he or she wouldn’t normally worry about, such as legs or hands?

If so, your teen might need treatment for self-harm.

How to Help Your Teen with Suicidal Thoughts

If you have determined your teen is having suicidal thoughts, you can help.

Talk to Your Teen

Many people think talking to their teens about suicide will encourage them to attempt it. This is not the case. Your teen might be too afraid to bring up the topic with you. Talk to them about why some people experience suicidal thoughts and how suicide is never the answer.

If your teen does tell you about suicidal thoughts, stay calm. Many teens are afraid to say how they feel in case their parents react badly. By showing your teen that you can be trusted with this information, you help your teen see you as a support system.

Take Your Teen Seriously

Never underestimate your teen’s risk. If he or she tells you about suicide, don’t assume your teen is joking or would never really do it. Get professional help immediately.

Support Your Teen

Let your teen know you will always take his or her side. Whether the problem is bullies at school or trouble at home, you will always be available to help.

Teenagers often feel more comfortable with their friends than their parents. Encourage your teen to spend time with friends you think have a positive influence. A good support system is invaluable to a teenager with depression.

Keep Harmful Items Away From Your Teen

If you know your teen is thinking about suicide, lock up every potentially lethal item in your house-even over-the-counter pain relievers. If your teen needs medicine, dispense it yourself and make sure or teen swallows it.

If you own guns, make sure to lock them up, unloaded, and store ammunition separately. If possible, don’t even let your teen know where they are.

Enlist Your Teen in a Treatment Program

Don’t leave your teen’s depression untreated. Many treatment options are available, including group therapy and medication. Find a center near you with reliable professionals and get your teen started on the road to recovery.

The teenage years are a hard time for everyone, including parents. If your teen suffers from depression, it’s no one’s fault. However, you can help your teen get through this rough time by supporting him or her and making sure he or she receives adequate treatment.

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