Ten teenagers out of 100,000 decide to kill themselves. These numbers cannot be ignored. Educating our teens about suicide in school and at home can help reduce these numbers, while allowing teens to express their feelings and communicate their problems freely with someone can help save their lives as well. The potential for suicide exists in all of us – rich or poor, young and old, male or female, urban or rural, popular or not.
There is a myth that people who talk about suicide are not likely to attempt suicide. In fact, many people who attempt or complete suicide, often tell someone, either directly or indirectly. Most people do give some warning of potential suicide. You need to be alert to such warnings, to listen carefully to those around you who may be in crisis. You might think it is safer not to talk about suicide with someone you think is considering it. On the contrary, talking may be the only way to understand the person’s intentions or to confirm your fears. A willingness to listen indicates that you care, that you are willing to help.
Suicide is a teen’s last attempt to ease the pain, to make a statement, or it is just a wrong decision giving a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Teens don’t see the bigger picture; they only see the “right now.”
They get wrapped up in the emotions of the moment and tend to only think about a week ahead — that’s all. And when you mix immature short-sightedness with feelings of utter hopelessness, some kids think they cannot live with the pain another day.
Other kids who contemplate suicide are filled with rage over teasing by their peers or the way they feel they’ve been mistreated by family.
They choose suicide as a tragic form of payback.
It is always shocking to think that anyone-much less a young person-would want to die. Yet more than 1,200 teenagers die by suicide each year in the United States, and more than 72,000 teens are treated in emergency rooms each year because they attempted suicide
One young suicide survivor shared the following:
“I can’t remember when I didn’t feel different from other kids. They all had friends but no one wanted to play with me. I hated going to school and hated being home. I guess I just hated being me. So I began planning my own death when I was in middle school.”
“I started taking pills from my parent’s medicine cabinet and just storing them. It was comforting to know I could take them at any time and be gone. The only thing stopped me was that I knew how bad they would feel if I was dead. One day my mom yelled at me for not taking out the garbage and I went to my room and swallowed all of them. I don’t know why that day was different from any other day, but it was.”
Fortunately this young man survived, entered a long term adolescent treatment program that offered both individual and family treatment, and received appropriate medication. He still wrestles daily with self-doubts but is starting to talk about these feelings with parents, friends, and a counselor.
Parents should be aware of these other warning signs that their teenager may be having suicidal thoughts:
- They may begin to isolate themselves, pulling away from friends or family
- They may no longer participate in what was their favorite things or activities
- They may have recently developed trouble thinking clearly They may have changes in their personality (darker, more anxious, or non-caring)
- They may be experiencing changes in eating or sleeping habits
- They may talk about suicide or death in general
- They may express feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- They may exhibit self-destructive behavior (substance abuse, dangerous driving, recklessness, excessive risk taking)
- They may have changes in their personal hygiene and appearance
- They may complain about anxiety-related physical problems (stomachaches, headaches, hives, fatigue, blurred vision)
- They may have difficulty accepting praise or rewards.
If you see any of these signs in your teen, talk to them about your concerns and seek professional help from a physician or a qualified mental health professional. For teenagers, the point is to create a bridge to help them get past this period of hopelessness and into a better mindset.
If you have lost someone to suicide, the first thing you should know is that you are not alone. Each year over 34,000 people in the United States die by suicide — the devastated family and friends they leave behind are known as “survivors.”
There are millions of survivors who, like you, are trying to cope with this heartbreaking loss. Be aware of what community support systems or resource are available.
- Suicide is usually the result of a complex set of factors, but it may be just one or two things that trigger a person to move from thought to action.
- Remember that thoughts about suicide are just that – thoughts. You don’t need to act on them. They won’t last forever, and often they pass very quickly. Many people who have had serious thoughts of suicide say that they felt completely different only hours later.
- If you’re feeling suicidal, there are many ways to keep yourself safe and work through tough times. Getting help early can assist you to cope with the situation and avoid things getting worse.
If the risk seems high or immediate, do not leave the person alone or send them on their own to an agency or other resource person. If possible, considering personal safety, remove the means (pills, car keys).
Continue to be involved. Let the person know you care beyond the immediate crisis. Remember, even though the risk of suicide may be past for individual, the person may continue to need assistance – yours as well as that of a professional.
In any case, this is a difficult situation. You don’t have to cope with it by yourself and it’s probably wise not to do so. If you have any doubts, get assistance.
Work on a close, positive relationship with your child. This can be a life-saving safety valve to the depressed and troubled youth.
Don’t be afraid to say the word “suicide” if you think it may be an option. Getting the word out in the open may help your teen think someone has heard his cries for help, Support and early intervention can be effective in this matter.
Reassure your teen that you love him or her. Remind your child that no matter how awful his problems seem, they can be worked out, and you are willing to help.
Ask your teen to talk about his problems. Listen carefully. Do not dismiss the problems or get angry.
Remove all potentially lethal weapons from your home, including guns, pills, kitchen utensils, and ropes. Guns are the most common method teens use to commit suicide. Everyone should prevent children’s access to guns by locking them in a separate area from ammunition.
Seek professional help. Ask your teen’s doctor to guide you. A variety of outpatient and hospital-based treatment programs are available.
If I could but have held them in my arms of care,
Brushed away the dark, dank clouds of hopelessness,
And moved them with some pure impassioned prayer:
O, dear one, I know you’re hurting bad,
And prob’ly just need someone who will understand.
Life’s wounds run deep,
But there below our surface waved emotions,
They contact inner strength, no more asleep,
And blending with the currents of compassion,
Will buoy you up to chart uncharted seas.
You may be different from the rest,
But that’s what makes you special,
Your talents are unique and precious,
Enough to help you reach your crest.
Don’t throw it all away!
We need you
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What you can do to prevent suicide………..
- Reach Out – Ask them directly if they are thinking about suicide. It needs to be a direct question that can’t be misinterpreted.“Are you thinking about suicide?”Most people with thoughts of suicide want to talk about it. They want to live – but desperately need someone to hear their pain and offer them help to keep safe.Don’t be afraid to ask them if they are thinking about suicide. This shows you care and they’re not alone.
- Listen to them – Allow them to express their feelings. Let them do most of the talking. They will often feel a great sense of relief someone wants to talk to them about their darkest thoughts.
- Check their safety – If you are really worried don’t leave them alone. Remove any means of suicide including weapons, medications, drugs, alcohol, even access to a car. Get help by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, or emergency services on 000. You can also take them to the local hospital emergency department.
- Decide what to do and take action – Talk about steps you can take together to keep them safe. Don’t agree to keep it a secret, you shouldn’t be the only one supporting this person. You may need help from someone else to persuade them to get help. You can also help by finding out information on what resources and services are available for a person who is considering suicide.
- Ask for a promise – Thoughts of suicide may return, so ask them to promise to reach out and tell someone. Asking them to promise makes it more likely they will tell someone.
- Get help – There are lots of services and people that can help and provide assistance.
- GP (doctor)
- Counselor, psychologist, social worker
- School Counselor
- Emergency Services 000
- Community Health Centers
- Crisis support services like Lifeline, Kids helpline
- Seek support from family and friends, youth group leader, sports coach, priest, minister or religious leader etc.
In some situations they may refuse help and you can’t force them to get help. You need to ensure the appropriate people are aware of the situation. Don’t shoulder this responsibility yourself.
The greatest asset your child has, whether he knows it or not, is a parent who insists on staying in touch with his feelings and what is going on in his life. The best weapon against depression and suicide in teenagers is a parent who knows their child well enough to know when they need help, even if the child is resistant.
Trusting your instincts on this one over rides their objections. Their safety and mental health is too important.
The bottom line: Know your children, get them to talk and get help.
Suicide is also big in adults. We had a son that committed suicide at 39. It was so sad and alcohol was a part of this as well as life in general. No one knew how he was feeling and he left 2 kids and a wife behind.
Guest Write Jennifer Scott Has Written “A Suicide Prevention Toolkit” That is Very Good Below!
Resources for Teens
Go Ask Alice! ( http://www.goaskalice.columbia.edu) is a web-based health question-and-answer service produced by Alice!, Columbia University’s Health Education Program. Go Ask Alice! provides information to help young people make better decisions concerning their health and well-being. Go Ask Alice! answers questions about relationships, sexuality, emotional health, alcohol and other drugs, and other topics.
The addresses of e-mails sent to Go Ask Alice! are electronically scrambled to preserve the senders’ confidentiality. Questions are answered by a team of Columbia University health educators and information and research specialists from other health-related organizations. The Go Ask Alice! archive on emotional health also contains information on suicide and depression.
General Resources on Suicide and Suicide Prevention
Suicide Prevention Resource Center (http://www.sprc.org/). The Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC) provides prevention support, training, and materials to strengthen suicide prevention efforts. Among the resources found on its website is the SPRC Library Catalog (http://library.sprc.org/), a searchable database containing a wealth of information on suicide and suicide prevention, including publications, peer-reviewed research studies, curricula, and web-based resources. Many of these items are available online.
American Association of Suicidology (http://www.suicidology.org/). The American Association of Suicidology is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicide. It promotes research, public awareness programs, public education, and training for professionals and volunteers and serves as a national clearinghouse for information on suicide.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (http://www.afsp.org). The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is dedicated to advancing our knowledge of suicide and our ability to prevent it. AFSP’s activities include supporting research projects; providing information and education about depression and suicide; promoting professional education for the recognition and treatment of depressed and suicidal individuals; publicizing the magnitude of the problems of depression and suicide and the need for research, prevention, and treatment; and supporting programs for suicide survivor treatment, research, and education.
Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (http://www.spanusa.org). Suicide Prevention Action Network USA (SPAN USA) is the nation’s only suicide prevention organization dedicated to leveraging grassroots support among suicide survivors (those who have lost a loved one to suicide) and others to advance public policies that help prevent suicide.
International Foundation for Research and Education on Depression (iFred) is dedicated to helping research the causes of depression, to support those dealing with depression and to combat the stigma associated with depression.
The Jed Foundation works nationally to reduce the rate of suicide and the prevalence of emotional distress among college and university students.
Suicide Prevention Initiatives (SPI) develops, implements and funds suicide prevention projects across the world, deciding what projects are most likely to prevent suicide and creating a team to see the projects through. The organization is also dedicated to providing support for survivors of suicide — children, youth, and adults who have lost a relative or friend to suicide.
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