Posted: July 28, 2016
Coping With Suicidal Behavior In Teens
The teen years are often confusing and overwhelming to even the most well-adjusted child. For some, an introduction to drugs or alcohol can lead to troubling behaviors; for others, emotional or psychiatric disorders play a part. When faced with a teenager who has become depressed and is exhibiting suicidal tendencies, parents often don’t know where to begin in helping their child, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone, and that there are many reasons a person turns to suicide. It can be difficult to understand another’s thought process, but if you can be patient–with your teen and with yourself–things can be turned around.
Young people in the age of technology have a very different set of problems than their parents did. The issues–such as sex or sexual preference, bullying, and body image–are much the same, but are complicated now with the introduction of social media and the availability of smartphones. Now, any transgression can be recorded and uploaded in the blink of an eye to the general public.
Social media allows bullies to follow through with disturbing behaviour from behind the safety of a screen name. All of these things can contribute to depression in a teen whose emotional state is already high from the pressures of school and social activities.
The list of possible reasons a teenager might become withdrawn and non-social is a long one; perhaps they had a fight with a best friend, or a particular crush doesn’t know they exist. Maybe they are failing a class and don’t know how to ask for help due to fear of reprimand. For some, becoming sexually active is an extremely stressful time that is hard to cope with. The fear of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy can keep a teen from talking openly with their parents.
If you are uncomfortable with speaking to your kids about these topics, it might be a good idea to help them find a professional to speak with, whether it’s for therapy or just a trusted health care provider. For many young people, having some of these issues can seem insurmountable and resulting depression or feelings of shame can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Drug and alcohol use can increase as teens get older. Alcohol lowers a user’s inhibitions, which can lead to dangerous behavior, but even when a young person is only “social drinking,” it can lead to a much bigger problem. Alcohol can amplify feelings of depression or isolation, and if the drinker has already had thoughts of suicide, it could push them toward the idea that they are out of options.
While facing these feelings can be frightening for an adult, they can be overwhelming for a teenager who feels like they will lose the love and support of their family over certain behaviors or mistakes. It’s important to talk to your child if you suspect they are harboring suicidal thoughts and let them know they are loved. There are many support groups online for families and individuals who need help, so don’t feel as though you need to go at it alone. Pay attention to warning signs, such as personality changes, mood swings, verbiage that includes the word “suicide,” or withdrawal from contact with others.
Finally, it’s important to address the root cause of your child’s suicidal thoughts, perhaps with a mental health professional. There may be a psychiatric disorder or emotional issue that needs to be resolved, or perhaps a past event that caused trauma that has been buried for months or years. Speaking to a professional could help, but sometimes all the child needs is the support of their family.
Jennifer McGregor has wanted to be a doctor since she was little. Now, as a pre-med student, she’s well on her way to achieving that dream. She helped create PublicHealthLibrary.org with a friend as part of a class project. With it, she hopes to provide access to trustworthy health and medical resources. When Jennifer isn’t working on the site, you can usually find her hitting the books in the campus library or spending some downtime with her dog at the local park.