A parent’s worst nightmare is hearing that your child has committed suicide. As a parent your mind starts racing, what did I miss? Why was their life so bad? Why didn’t they tell me they felt depressed? Soon the grief has taken over like a sharp knife stabbing your heart. Guilt, fear, and shame become your friend and the days and nights feel empty and hopeless.
I have met with many people who have been affected by suicide. A mother whose teen overdosed on anxiety meds, a girl who found her best friend hanging from a tree, and countless teenagers who have come to see me after attempting to take their life.
Today is World Mental Health Day and therefore an important day to discuss teen suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 10-19 year old’s in the United States. In the average year, we lose over 2,000 teens. What are the warning signs of suicide that you might not think about?
If your adolescent avoids expressing emotions and feelings they may be depressed. Numbness is the result of an individual no longer feeling safe to share. They often lack opinions, shrug off feelings and move through life as if they are a robot.
Many parents will tell me their child does not struggle with anxiety. I believe it is because anxiety is often viewed as panic, shaking, and nervousness. However, many people can be anxious yet show none of the above signs. Anxiety is when our brain gets stuck in a problem-solving mode. Many teens struggle with anxiety about school, grades, their home lives and life in general. Some common ways I see adolescents self-soothe is through drugs, alcohol, smoking and reckless behavior.
Your adolescent may be depressed and suicidal if they are sneaking out of the house, engaging in reckless behavior that could lead to death or showing signs that they do not care about life. A teens lack of care in life can often lead to isolation.
A common misconception is that depressed teenagers will isolate themselves from everyone if they’re depressed. This is not always true. Many of the suicidal adolescents I have seen in my office have a large social circle that they are regularly a part of, however, I often see that they stay isolated from family. They push their family away by being rude, angry and disengaged.
Trouble in the Family
Adolescents have a hard time putting emotions and words to what they’re feeling. If your family is going through a divorce, a loss of a family member, the removal a family member or any other changes, your teen could become depressed.
What can you do? Talk to your child regularly. Do not assume that a smile, good grades and, an active social life exempts your child from depression. Watch for signs of numbness, anxiety, reckless behavior, isolation and trouble in the family systems. If your child presents with any of these signs, monitor their behavior, have regular conversations and ask them if they have ever thought about harming themselves. If they have, take it seriously and get help immediately. There are three ways you can get help:
Call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255
Call a therapist near you
If your child is in immediate danger call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.