Teen Suicide: How to Talk About it with Your Child and What to Look Out For | Rice Psychology
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Teen Suicide: How to Talk About it with Your Child and What to Look Out For

Teen Suicide

Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s piece.

I cannot believe that I am even writing this, but last week I found out that one of my son’s classmates committed suicide. They weren’t particularly close, but I could see that Anthony was very upset about it. After all, he’s only fifteen. Of course, I know that there’s a period of grief after someone’s death, but the idea of talking to my own son to help him process or understand why his classmate might have killed himself is beyond me. It’s such an important and sensitive subject, and I want to make sure I do it the right way.

If you follow pop culture closely, then you’ve probably heard of 13 Reasons Why, the new hit program on Netflix. It tells the story of Hannah Baker, a young girl who takes her own life. The show has brought the topic of suicide to the forefront of social conversation, but the truth is that the subject has been serious for a very long time.

In people aged 15 to 24, suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death. Click To Tweet

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,193 Americans take their own lives each year. Suicide additionally ranks as the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. and there are 121 suicides per day on average. In people aged 15 to 24, suicide ranks as the third leading cause of death. What can you do to explain to your teen what this topic is all about?

Contact us today in Tampa if you would like help dealing with or talking about this very serious issue.

The Facts About Suicide

One very important thing to remember about suicide is that it doesn’t have one single cause. According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), there are specific factors, such as untreated depression and substance abuse, that can potentially increase the risk of suicide. In fact, according to SAVE, there is a strong correlation between mental illnesses and suicide. Some of the most common risk factors include:

  • Depression and mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Changes in behavior, including attitude, sleep and appetite
  • Significant problems with peers, including bullying, withdrawal or isolation
  • LGBTQ and other identity issues
  • Stress brought on by school, social life and family
  • Substance use and abuse

Explaining the Issue

One very important thing to remember about suicide is that it doesn’t have one single cause. Click To Tweet

Teen suicide is an awful topic to have to think or talk about, but it should never be ignored. When discussing the issue with your child, here are a few ideas to keep in mind to help get started:

  • Stick with the facts and be honest – There’s no point in sugarcoating the subject of teen suicide. It isn’t a lighthearted topic. It’s a very serious problem and your child needs to understand this. Explain to him or her that life’s problems can be very overwhelming, especially with someone who’s young and might be going through the darker sides of teen life, like bullying, dealing with a mental health issue, problems at home or even sexual harassment. Explain to your child that no matter what, you love him/her and want nothing more than for them to be safe.
  • Explain that parents are left devastated by a teen suicide – Losing a loved one can bring a family’s world crumbing down, especially if the person was young. Explain to your child that there’s no pain worse than a parent losing their child, especially if something such as depression was the cause. If they’re experiencing troubling times and are having thoughts of suicide, knowing that you as their parent will be devastated if he/she were to do something rash can help them rethink how they’re dealing with their issue. Encourage them to be open with you about their feelings and that you won’t judge them on their emotions.
  • Be ready to hear some difficult things – Keep in mind that there will be times in life where your child will do or say things that you aren’t prepared for. When talking about suicide with your teen, be ready to hear some tough things, such as your child telling you that sometimes they don’t want to live because of life, school or another problem. This can be frightening, but like we suggested in our first point, explain that his or her problem can be addressed and that you’ll stick by their side no matter what.
  • If a child that your child knows has recently attempted or committed suicide – Your child may be very upset, confused, sad or even angry. They may not understand how a person could feel so hopeless that they would try to end their own life. We’ve found it helpful to frame suicidal behavior as happening when life’s problems get bigger than and overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. Allow your child to share with you what they know. Try to stick to the facts and take a compassionate position toward the child, his or her family and friends. Avoid spreading rumors as they can make a bad situation so much worse. Be available and be a good listener to your children as they process this unfathomable event in their lives. When suicide happens close to home, we must be extra vigilant with all kids as suddenly the unthinkable becomes real.

Spotting the Problems

Noticing suicidal tendencies in your teen may not be easy, but here are a few signs that you should look out for:

  • Talking about or mentioning suicide on a regular basis.
  • Finding difficulty in and becoming emotional when speaking to you about a certain topic and then changing the subject.
  • Occasionally telling you that he/she feels hopeless or worthless.
  • Not wanting to spend time with friends or family, staying in their room, sleeping a lot or eating very little. These could be signs of depression.
  • Focusing on the topic of death, such as talking, watching films or reading about it.
  • Strange behavior such as sudden angry outbursts, sudden crying or constant sadness.
  • Uncharacteristically giving away personal items that they hold very dear.

Rice Psychology Group is Ready to Help

Teen suicide is an awful topic to have to think or talk about, but it should never be ignored. Click To Tweet

There’s no doubt that the threat of suicide is extremely difficult to handle. Whatever the case in your family may be, know that Rice Psychology Group is here to help. Our psychologists in Tampa are fully prepared to talk with you and/or your child in a comfortable environment to help get to the underlying issues and find the best ways to deal with them. For more information about our services, don’t hesitate to contact us today.

About Rice Psychology

Rice Psychology Group is home to a team of psychologists who work tirelessly to help adults, adolescents and children deal with their issues. Whether you’re currently dealing with depression, going through a divorce or fighting an issue you just can’t understand, know that our Tampa psychologists are here to help.

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