How Can Parents Prevent Their Teenager From Committing Suicide?
Suicides among young people continue to be a serious problem. Each year in the
U.S., thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of
death for 15 to 24-year-olds, and the sixth leading cause of death for 5 to
14-year-olds. Although suicide is relatively rare among children, the rate of
suicide attempts and suicide deaths increases tremendously during adolescence.
Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental disorders. The child or adolescent needs to have
his or her illness recognized and diagnosed, and appropriate treatment plans developed. When parents
are in doubt whether their child has a serious problem, a psychiatric examination can be very helpful.
Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression.
Most kids who commit or attempt suicide have given some type of warning to loved ones ahead of time.
So as a parent, it's important that you are aware of some of the warning signs that your child may be
suicidal, so that you can get your child the help that he or she needs.
Parents should be aware of the following signs of adolescents who may try to kill
· change in eating and sleeping habits
· withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
· violent actions, rebellious behavior, or running away
· drug and alcohol use
· unusual neglect of personal appearance
· marked personality change
· persistent boredom, difficulty concentrating, or a decline in the quality of schoolwork
· frequent complaints about physical symptoms, often related to emotions, such as stomachaches,
headaches, fatigue, etc.
· loss of interest in pleasurable activities
· not tolerating praise or rewards
A teenager who is planning to commit suicide may also:
· complain of being a bad person or feeling rotten inside
· give verbal hints with statements such as: I won't be a problem for you much longer, Nothing
matters, It's no use, and I won't see you again
· put his or her affairs in order, for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room,
throw away important belongings, etc.
· become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
· have signs of psychosis (hallucinations or bizarre thoughts)
· talk about suicide or death in general
· talk about "going away"
· talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
· self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or driving too fast, for example)
Factors that increase the risk of suicide among teens include:
· the presence of a psychological disorder, especially depression, bipolar disorder, and alcohol and
substance use (In fact, approximately 95% of people who die by suicide have a psychological disorder at
the time of death.)
· feelings of distress, irritability, or agitation
· feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that often accompany depression (A teen, for example,
who experiences repeated failures at school, who is overwhelmed by violence at home, or who is isolated
from peers is likely to experience such feelings.)
· a previous suicide attempt
· a family history of depression or suicide (Depressive illnesses may have a genetic component, so
some teens may be predisposed to suffer major depression.)
· having suffered physical abuse or sexual abuse
· lack of a support network, poor relationships with parents or peers, and feelings of social isolation
· dealing with homosexuality in an unsupportive family or community or hostile school environment
If one or more of these signs of suicide occurs, parents need to talk to their child about their concerns
and seek professional help when the concerns persist. With support from family and professional
treatment, children and teenagers who are suicidal can heal and return to a more healthy path of
Since teens who are contemplating suicide feel so alone and helpless, the most important thing to do if
you think a friend or loved one is suicidal is to communicate with him or her openly and frequently.
Make it clear that you care; stress your willingness to listen. Also, be sure to take all
talk of suicide seriously. Don’t assume that people who talk about killing themselves
won’t really do it. An estimated 80 percent of all those who commit suicide give some
warning of their intentions or mention their feelings to a friend or family member.
And don’t ignore what may seem like casual threats or remarks. Statements like
"You’ll be sorry when I’m dead" and "I can’t see any way out," no matter how
off-the-cuff or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.