Suicidal thoughts, often called suicidal ideation, is the experience of having thoughts of ending your life. These kinds of thoughts can be momentary and short-lived. And for others, suicidal thinking might develop into well-thought out plans. Fortunately, the majority of teens who have suicidal thinking do not follow through on those thoughts. Yet, sadly, for a number of teens, those thoughts lead to bringing their life to an end.
When a teen commits suicide, it can come as a surprise to some parents. They may not have realized that their child’s depression was that severe, or they may not have understood the depth of their teen’s pain. Although the surprise of suicide is what some parents experience, the truth is there are warning signs that a person frequently reveals when he or she is contemplating the end of their own life. The following are common signs that parents and loved ones of teens can look for:
- substance use
- violent or rebellious behavior, including running away
- withdrawal from friends and family
- loss of interest in activities a teen might enjoy
- having an unwillingness to accept praise or rewards
- significant changes in eating and sleeping habits – swinging either to too much or too little
- neglect of personal hygiene and appearance
- giving away personal belongings
- having thoughts about death
- body aches such as headaches, stomachaches, fatigue or other physical symptoms
- trouble concentrating or focusing
- having a low level of energy
- having bizarre thoughts
- suddenly becoming cheerful with the thought that suicide could be a way of problems
- making statements, such as “I wish I were dead”
- preoccupation with death or dying
When parents notice these warning signs, it’s essential to talk to a mental health provider. With the help of a professional, a parent might feel more supported in approaching the issue with their teen. However, it’s important that parents utilize the assistance of a mental health provider before facing the issue of suicide with their child. Because teens are going through so many emotional and psychological changes and if the parent-teen relationship is tumultuous, it might be best for a therapist or psychologist to talk to a teen who might be suicidal.
And some parents might recognize that their teen’s depression or suicidal thinking is worse than they thought. For instance, if a parent recognizes the following more severe signs, then he or she should call 911:
- writing a suicide note
- writing a will
- obtaining tools, such as rope or a knife, that might aide in suicide
- making threats, such as “I won’t be a problem anymore”
- clearly stating, “I want to kill myself”
After recognizing one of the above urgent warning signs and approaching your teen about your concerns and if your child claims to be feeling better or that it was not serious, it’s important to continue to get help nonetheless. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Furthermore, if your teen is making any of the above gestures, then he or she may need mental health support anyway.
If you recognize any of the above signs in your teen, contact a mental health provider today.