It’s a common misconception that young people who talk about or attempt suicide are just trying to get attention or that they’re pleading for help when they’re really just trying to end their own lives. Kids who talk or write about teenage suicide or wanting to kill themselves are sometimes thought to be overly dramatic, and it is assumed that they are not serious about their thoughts.
A warning about self-harm should never be disregarded, even if it comes from a child who has made comments so many times that it can be tempting to stop taking her seriously. It is essential to respond to threats and other warning signs in a manner that demonstrates seriousness and thoughtfulness. They do not necessarily indicate that a child will try to take their own life. But you can’t take that risk because the stakes are too high.
When considering this, it is helpful to understand the factors that increase or decrease the likelihood that a young person will consider or attempt suicide. What do we know about the young people who make suicide attempts or who end their lives by suicide?
Let’s take a look not only at the risk factors, which are the things that raise the likelihood that a child will engage in suicidal behavior but also at the protective factors, which are the things that lower the risk.
You have every reason to be very concerned about a child’s well-being if that child possesses a high number of risk factors but very few protective factors. On the other hand, if he has a significant number of risk factors but a large number of protective factors, you might find some comfort as you still take things seriously and seek professional help.
Important risk factors for teenage suicide
- A recent or significant loss. This could include the passing of a member of the family, a close friend, or even a beloved pet. A profound sense of loss can be experienced not only when a parent loses their job or the family’s home, but also when parents separate or divorce, breaks up with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or even when the teen ends a relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- A psychiatric disorder, more specifically a mood disorder such as depression, or a disorder related to trauma and stress.
- Previous suicide attempts significantly increase the likelihood of a subsequent attempt.
- Disorders related to the use of alcohol and other substances.
- A history of getting into a lot of trouble, struggling with disciplinary issues, and participating in a lot of high-risk behaviors.
- Confusion about one’s gender or sexual orientation due to rejection of the God-ordained categories of male and female and heterosexuality.
- A history of domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect. Even a history of suicide in the family is something that can be very significant and cause for concern.
- A lack of support from social sources. It is possible for young people to feel a profound sense of isolation if they do not receive emotional support from significant adults in their lives or their peers. Suicidal ideation may result as a result of this.
- Bullying. Being the target of bullying is a risk factor. Evidence also suggests, however, that children who bully others may also be at an increased risk for engaging in suicidal behavior.
- Availability of potentially lethal means, such as firearms and pills.
Wrong mindsets about teenage suicide
There is a stigma attached to seeking assistance. One of the things that we are aware of is that the likelihood of someone choosing to hurt themselves or take their own life is proportional to the degree to which they feel helpless andhopeless. In a similar vein, if they experience a great deal of guilt or shame, or if they have a low sense of their worth or self-esteem, they may be more likely to pursue suicide.
Some cultures and religions believe that suicide is a courageous way to escape an unbearable situation in one’s life. We know, however, that death by suicide is not the answer. Let us then consider protective factors, things that can help reduce the likelihood that a person will engage in suicidal behavior.
- Capacity for finding solutions to problems. Children who can recognize an issue and generate viable solutions to manage it, as well as kids who can find non-aggressive ways to resolve conflicts, are at a lower risk.
- Solid ties between parties. The stronger the ties that children have to their families, their friends, and the people in their communities, the less likely it is that they will hurt themselves in some way. This is due, in part, to the fact that they experience love and support and to the fact that they have people to whom they can turn when they are having difficulty or when they are feeling challenged.
- Restricted access to highly lethal means of self-destruction.
- Beliefs in various cultures and religions that discourage suicide and that promote the value of self-preservation.
- Comparatively uncomplicated access to the most appropriate clinical intervention, which may take the form of psychotherapy; individual, group, or family therapy; or medication, if it is determined that such treatment is necessary.
- Treatment that is efficient for mental, physical, and addiction-related disorders. It is important for children to feel like they have a connection to the medical and mental health professionals who are caring for them and who are available to them if they have any questions or concerns.
How you can help
What should you do if you discover that your child fits the profile of someone who is at risk for suicide among young people? Start by being aware of changes in personality or behavior that might not seem to have anything to do with suicidal ideation but should still be monitored for possible warning signs of suicide.
Notice and be concerned about a teenager’s mental health if they become depressed, more withdrawn, more irritable, anxious, tired, or apathetic, or things that used to be fun no longer hold the same appeal for them. Alterations in one’s eating or sleeping habits can also be indicators of a potentially serious problem.
A red flag is also raised when a person begins to behave in an erratic or risky manner. It may be a sign that a teen is spiraling out of control if the teen begins to make decisions that are extremely poor or if the teen begins engaging in behaviors that are harmful to himself or other people, such as bullying or fighting.
Whenever a child brings up the subject of passing away, you should listen carefully to what they have to say. Phrases to be aware of include things such as:
- I wish I had never been born.
- I just want to vanish.
- I don’t know, maybe it’s time for me to leap off that building.
- Perhaps it’s time for me to kill myself.
- If I weren’t here, things would go more smoothly for you all.
It is essential to take this kind of conversation seriously whenever you hear it, even if you find it hard to believe that your child means what they say.
Talking should be the first thing you do
Please get in touch with us so that we can provide you with additional resources and information regarding teenage suicide. Do not let yourself or your child suffer in silence when they can still get help. Contact us today.
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