Most teens, at some point in their lives, have experienced feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and distress. These feelings may escalate into suicidal thoughts if they remain unnoticed by parents and close family members.
Teens suicide can be prevented if parents are aware of its risk factors, warning signs and how they can better support their children.
What makes teens vulnerable to suicide?
- Mental health issues such as depression (with an overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness), bipolar disorder, and anxiety
- Stressful life circumstances such as moving, parents’ divorce or separation, financial changes, bullying or cyber bullying in an unsupportive environment
- Lack of a support network due to ongoing conflict with close friends or family members, which results on young people feeling isolated
- Alcohol and/or drug use
- Family history of depression or suicidal behaviour
- Exposure to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse
- Being uncertain of sexual orientation
- The influence of Social Media: some unhealthy games and Chat Forums on the Social Media would rather suggest committing suicide as a way of showing bravery or dealing with life stressors
Look out for warning signs
Distressed teens may succeed in hiding their pain, however, clues to how they are truly feeling can be noticeable by their families and friends:
- Talking about death and hinting that they might not be around anymore
- Pulling away from family and friends, and losing of interest in taking part in hobbies or activities
- Lack of focus on school work
- Low self-esteem and self-hatred statement as: “everyone would be better off without me.”
- Giving away treasured belongings
- Hinting about suicide in emails or on the Social Media
Helping you suicidal teen: Dos and Don’ts
It’s important that parents see warning signs of suicide as serious and not as “attention-seeking” behaviour.
- Maintain an open communication with your teen (or start it now if communication between the two of you has been poor in the past) and show your concern, support, and love
- Ask openly if they are thinking of killing themselves
- If your teen talks to you, do no minimise the issue, this will increase their sense of hopelessness.
- Do not be judgmental about suicide
- Contact your teens’ school and ask to learn their Digital Literacy Programme if your teen is active online
- Regularly accompany your teen to see a counsellor/doctor
As parents, it is also important to look after yourself by talking to trusted friends about the issue and learning to relax and deal with your stress. Parenting, after all, is never a smooth journey!
Collaborative Family Practitioner (SMC)