JFS Perspectives

Friday, June 02, 2017

Mental Health Matters: Tips for Parents to Prevent Teen Suicide



Mental Health Matters: Tips for Parents to Prevent Teen Suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for teens over 15. It is a significant health issue facing today’s youth, particularly in Colorado, which in 2015 was ranked seventh out of the 50 states for rates of suicide.

Suicide is a complicated topic, and there is never only one cause. However, certain contextual factors may increase the risk of a suicide attempt. These include substance use, a history of suicide attempts or self-harming behavior, a mental health diagnosis, current stressful situation (such as family conflict, a break-up, recent loss, abuse, or traumatic event), and/or experiencing the suicide of a friend or family member. A suicide impacts the whole community, and can sometimes set off a contagion effect of further suicide attempts in that community. Youth are especially vulnerable to this effect, so it may be important to check in with your child if you do hear of a suicide in your community. Television, internet, and social media can spread messages quickly and widely.

Suicide is understandably a scary topic, but there are some warning signs you can watch for:

  • Making statements about death or suicide, which may be fairly direct (e.g., “I want to die,” “I want to go to sleep and never wake up”) or more indirect (e.g., “you’d be better off without me” or “I wish I wasn’t here”).
  • Reckless behavior, or acting without any apparent concern for safety, might also be an indirect expression of suicidal thoughts.
  • Sudden trouble sleeping or changes in sleep patterns.
  • Giving away cherished possessions to friends or family members, or making other preparations (such as creating a will, storing medication, or buying a weapon).
  • Sudden changes in mood, behavior, or appearance. Mood changes can take the form of increased depression or irritability or, counterintuitively, improvement in mood. When someone has made the decision to die, they may feel a sense of peace or relief at the decision and experience a consequent upswing in mood.

If you are concerned about your child, talk to them. Asking directly about suicide will not make a person more suicidal; rather, it gives them permission to let out these intense, often frightening and isolating feelings. Take suicidal statements seriously, even if your child is able to calm down or later says they did not mean it. Remove access to any means for self-harm that the person identifies (e.g., weapons or medication). Suicide is preventable, and it is important to seek help from a mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety.

Two good places to turn for help are the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1.800.273.8255 and Colorado Crisis Services: 1.844.493.8255 or text TALK to 38255.

 

Carissa DulchinosBy Carissa Dulchinos, MA
JFS KidSuccess School-Based Therapist
 

Carissa Dulchinos, MA , graduated in 2016 with master’s degree in international disaster psychology. She joined Jewish Family Service as a school-based therapist in September 2016.

 

 


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