The Parent-Teacher-Child Connection: Teen Suicide Prevention

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teen Suicide Prevention

World Suicide Prevention Day is held on September 10th each year. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented. Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 14.

Why has the youth suicide rate gone so high in recent years? The American Academy of Pediatrics identified some reasons:
  • It's easier to get the tools for suicide (Boys often use firearms to kill themselves; girls usually use pills);
  • the pressures of modern life are greater;
  • competition for good grades and college admission is stiff; and
  • there's more violence in the newspapers and on television.
If your teen-ager has been depressed, you should look closely for signs that he or she might be thinking of suicide:
  • Has his personality changed dramatically?
  • Is he having trouble with a girlfriend (or, for girls, with a boyfriend)? Or is he having trouble getting along with other friends or with parents? Has he withdrawn from people he used to feel close to?
  • Is the quality of his schoolwork going down? Has he failed to live up to his own or someone else's standards (when it comes to school grades, for example)?
  • Does he always seem bored, and is he having trouble concentrating?
  • Is he acting like a rebel in an unexplained and severe way?
  • Is she pregnant and finding it hard to cope with this major life change?
  • Has he run away from home?
  • Is your teen-ager abusing drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Is she complaining of headaches, stomachaches, etc., that may or may not be real?
  • Have his eating or sleeping habits changed?
  • Has his or her appearance changed for the worse?
  • Is he giving away some of his most prized possessions?
  • Is he writing notes or poems about death?
  • Does he talk about suicide, even jokingly? Has he said things such as, "That's the last straw," "I can't take it anymore," or "Nobody cares about me?" (Threatening to kill oneself precedes four out of five suicidal deaths.)
  • Has he tried to commit suicide before?
  • Does he "cut" (slicing hidden areas of his body)?

If you suspect that your teen-ager might be thinking about suicide, do not remain silent. Suicide is preventable, but you must act quickly.
  • Ask your teen-ager about it. Don't be afraid to say the word "suicide." Getting the word out in the open may help your teen-ager think someone has heard his cries for help.
  • Reassure him that you love him. Remind him that no matter how awful his problems seem, they can be worked out, and you are willing to help.
  • Ask her to talk about her feelings. Listen carefully. Do not dismiss her problems or get angry at her.
  • Remove all lethal weapons from your home, including guns, pills, kitchen utensils, and ropes.
  • Seek professional help. Ask your teen-ager's pediatrician to guide you. A variety of outpatient and hospital-based treatment programs are available.
My friend, Al Borris, wrote an awesome novel about four teens on a suicide mission.  It's called Crash into Me and examines the suicide process in depth without being preachy.  He also includes a touch of humor and four very different personalities. The ending will convince most teens contemplating suicide that it's not the route to go. 

I hope with this post that I have saved at least one family from the pain of suicide.

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