Suicide is rarely a sudden, spur-of-the-moment decision. There are usually clues and warning signs, including access to lethal weapons, feelings of hopelessness, giving away possessions, family conflicts and a history of depression or suicide attempts.
Many teenagers who attempt suicide feel that their parents don’t understand them. It’s important for adults to take these claims seriously.
Adolescence is a critical time for development of the prefrontal cortex, which helps with decision-making. When it is not functioning properly, impulsivity and poor judgment can increase risk. Suicide rates also appear to be higher for adolescent girls and are associated with a lack of social support.
Youth who have tried suicide in the past are at greater risk for attempting it again. Other risk factors include access to weapons and drugs, having a history of abuse (either physical or emotional), academic difficulties, and family/relationship difficulties.
A youth who is considering suicide may show signs such as a sudden loss of interest in school or social activities, a change in sleeping and eating habits, or a desire to be alone. They may also start to give away their personal belongings for no apparent reason. It is important for parents to seek help if they notice these changes. It is never a good idea to keep a child or teen’s suicidal thoughts secret.
The adolescent phase is a time of transition and significant cognitive, mental, and emotional change. These changes can be difficult and may lead to adolescent depression or a desire to self-harm. Parents should be alert to signs of adolescent depression and should seek professional assistance if they suspect that their child is at risk for suicide. This may include a general medical practitioner, clinical psychologist or competent youth counsellor. In addition, all suicidal threats must be taken seriously and lethal materials should be removed from the home environment – particularly as half of suicides in teens are achieved with firearms.
There are several factors that contribute to youth suicide, including adolescent depression, psychiatric disorders and substance abuse. Family problems can also increase the risk, particularly if one or more members of a family have died by suicide. Children in foster care, children who identify as LGBTQ and youths involved with the juvenile justice or child welfare systems can be at greater risk for suicide.
Young people who are at risk for suicide often show warning signs. They may lose interest in friends or activities and have trouble sleeping. They might also look for a way to kill themselves. These behaviors should always be taken seriously and treated as a life-threatening emergency.
Research shows that many youth suicides are preventable. The key is to intervene in the first year after suicidal thoughts begin. This window of intervention is the only one that leads to a reduction in suicide rates.
Many youth who are at risk for suicide are from families that are in crisis or have been separated by divorce or abuse. This can cause a sense of isolation and hopelessness. These youth need to have a support system they can depend on. This can include their family of choice, a 12 step group, or a church community. If they do not feel supported, their chances for survival are slim.
Youth suicide is a major public mental health problem that causes a large number of premature deaths and unnecessary suffering and societal loss. It is often caused by a complex dynamic interplay of many factors, and it can be difficult to predict or prevent. However, there is much that can be done to reduce the risk.
Educators can help protect students from suicide by promoting mental wellness and by providing the right resources. They can also encourage students to speak with someone if they are having suicidal thoughts or plans. Some schools have even implemented a program called “Making Educators Partners in Youth Suicide Prevention.” This is a free online course that has been used by more than 550,000 educators.
It is important to remember that while a young person may seem depressed or withdrawn, all suicides are impulsive and are associated with significant loss. It is also important to note that the majority of suicides in youth are caused by firearms, and that rural communities tend to have higher rates of youth suicide.