Sometimes, not feeling good on the inside, such as feeling depressed, can lead to finding ways to feel better – fast! When teens are depressed they might turn to drugs, risk taking behavior, relationships, or dive into sports excessively to feel better. However, when teens are severely depressed, they may turn to suicidal thinking and even attempt suicide. The teens who are at the most risk for suicide are those with untreated depression.
Experts have made the connection between thoughts that commonly appear with depression and the desire to commit suicide. For instance, when you’re not feeling good about yourself and your life, which is a primary symptom of depression, thoughts about death are common and there is sometimes a strong enough disdain for your life that suicide starts to feel like an option.
Although suicide is difficult to predict, there are some signs that indicate that a teen might be contemplating it. Research shows that four out of five teens that attempt suicide give clear warning signs first. Some of these warning signs are:
- Talking About Dying
- A Change in Personality
- Change in Eating Habits
- Fear of Losing Control
- Low Self Esteem
- No Hope for the Future
- Threats of suicide—either direct or indirect.
- Verbal hints such as “I won’t be around much longer” or “It’s hopeless.
- Obsession with death.
- Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame or rejection.
- Putting affairs in order (for example, giving or throwing away favorite possessions).
- Sudden cheerfulness after a period of depression.
- Dramatic change in personality or appearance.
- Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.
- Changes in school performance.
Depression has clear physical symptoms such as irritability, guilt, loss of interest in activities, social withdrawal, suicidal thoughts, poor concentration, poor memory, indecision, slow thinking, loss of motivation, sleep disturbance, appetite disturbance, fatigue, and headaches. Along with depression, there are other mental illness that can also influence the presence of suicidal thoughts in teens. For instance when a teen is diagnosed with a mental illness that may feel life-long, imprisoning, or interferes with their ability to enjoy their life, they are more apt to entertain suicidal thoughts. For those teens with schizophrenia, for instance, or bipolar disorder, the idea that they are destined to live with a mental illness for the rest of their life can be detrimental to their psychological well being. This doesn’t mean that treatment such as medication and therapy won’t help with symptoms they may be experiencing, but when a teenager faces the idea of carrying the weight of an illness throughout his or her life, a desire to take their own life might emerge.
For example, a recent study found that when there is a delay between diagnosis of a psychotic illness in teens and treatment, there is a greater risk for that teen to take his or her life. In general, those with psychosis are more at risk for suicide anyway. According to the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry in 2013, 20 percent to 40 percent of those diagnosed with psychosis attempt suicide, and up to 10 percent succeed. And, sadly, teens with psychotic symptoms are nearly 70 times more likely to attempt suicide than adolescents in the general population.
Yet, it’s the illness of depression, particularly when it’s untreated, that can lead to suicidal thinking and attempts at suicide. The best way to save your teen’s life is to seek the attention of a mental health professional. When you involve a mental health professional, you provide the safety and support your teen needs and you may even save his or her life.