Teen Suicide Q & A

While suicide is not confined to any age, gender, social or economic group, it is important to note that there are some factors that can make suicide seem a more desirable option for some teens. What are they?

Before the age of 18, a lot of decisions are made on behalf of teens. From parents, teachers, peers, media, even government officials, everyone is telling them what they should be doing. So they feel helpless, it appears like they have no control. When life is overwhelming and their is no hope, why go on when the future holds more pain? 

Another area of complication is the fact that our kids are not learning to self-soothe. They learn to distract with video games, movies, relationships, even drugs and alcohol. They don’t know how to manage the strong emotions that come with this life, like anger, sadness, disappointment, and conflict. They are not able to process and heal from these intense emotions and feel trapped, therefore making escape a viable option.  

 

What are the signs a teen is considering suicide? 

A red flag for me is when a teens personality starts to change. They are not as outgoing, they don’t laugh as much, they are frequently complaining or have negative outlook. Spending more time by themselves. There is no forward thinking, it’s all about the past and present. How things are terrible and there is no hope for it to get better. 

 

What causes a teen to consider ending their life? 

I believe their are two reasons why someone considers taking their life. They have no HOPE and seen no value in themselves. When there is no Hope there is no future, no prospect that things will get better. When there is no value in self, there is no purpose to life, to keep going. 

 

How can a parent enter the world of their teen to help counter ugly and relentless bullying via social media?

Normalize how the teen years are crazy. That we all have strengths and weaknesses. Show them how to embrace both. Laugh at the fact you aren’t great at math, or spelling.  All teens are struggling to figure themselves out. Its unfortunate that we only get to see the highlight reel. We all feel pressure to fit in. And we have all been picked on. Help them see they are not alone in feeling this way.

Help them define the difference between a healthy friendship and unhealthy relationship. Provide them a script of what to say when someone does something mean. 

Monitor but don't hover over their social media feeds. They most likely will NOT tell you if they are being bullied. Either because they feel shameful for being picked on or because they don't realize that they are being bullied. 

 

For every completed suicide, estimates assert that there are right around 25 suicide attempts. How do you help a teen who is having suicidal thoughts or who has attempted suicide? 

There is usually an event that triggered this latest behavior. Relationship ended, bullying, etc. Sometimes just talking about the situation, or emotions is enough to bring them down to a place of rational thought. Once they are able to process more than just the emotion, they can start working on making their life more than relationships, grades, sports, or whatever they had previously found their value in . 

How do you measure whether or not he/she is no longer a threat to himself/herself? What is the ultimate goal of treatment? 

Not sure there is actually a measurement, because they can say they will not harm themselves but then do just that when they get a chance. I can usually determine in a session from their language in describing the situation, or themselves that they appear to be more optimistic and hopeful. However, this is an assessment you as a parent should never make alone. If your child is having suicidal thoughts or has made an attempt, then it is absolutely imperative to get a mental health counselor involved. 

As for the ultimate goal of treatment, I want to hear contentment from the child; not necessary doing 'awesome', but is satisfied with their life. They would have a solid group of support from both peers and adults. This doesn't have to be a big number of people, but rather quality individuals in the child's life.      

Your thoughts on preventing teen suicides?

I believe as parents a way to ensure our kids are healthy emotionally is to spend time with them, provide structure with rules and appropriate consequences, and allow them opportunities to explore who they are through creative outlets, sports, relationships and changes in appearance. Our greatest needs as humans is to be LOVED and to be KNOWN. When those are met we naturally have contentment and hope for the future.  

 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at

1 (800) 273-8255.

There is a chat based organization for teens who are available to text 24/7 about anything you are going through. We all carry secrets.  Secrets weigh us down and rob us of life. You are not alone and the burden of your secret can be lifted.

Text "Remedy" to 313131

You will be connected to a Soul Medic it is confidential and FREE!  

 

Paige Clingenpeel

Teen Therapist working with teens and parents on TV, Radio, Web-Based Media, Blogs, and Print. Presently a monthly contributor to the women's parenting & marriage site iMom.com, and host of TBN's Tween show iShine K'Nect. Paige also provides individual therapy at LifeSprings Counseling Center, and works at Parkview Health as a student assistant counselor assigned to Carroll High School. Paige is married to Ryan and has two daughters and two sons!