Suicide is the #2 Cause of Teen Deaths

Nov 29, 2016

It’s not a fun subject, but it’s one that can’t be pushed under the rug. Suicide surpassed homicides as the second-leading cause of teen deaths, with accidents in the number one spot and homicide at number three.

One can speculate the many reasons for this increase in teen deaths, including cyber bullying, social isolation, economic hardship and prevalence of firearms. Regardless of the “whys,” as a parent it’s important to know the “what” and “how”—what to look for and how to prevent it. Here’s what you need to know to keep your teen safe.

Is Your Teen At Risk?

If you live in a suburban area, where suicide rates are double those in urbanized areas, your teen is likely at a higher-risk. Access to fire arms and cyber bullying also increases this risk. Other factors include:

  • Family history of suicide
  • Peer or social pressure
  • Public humiliation
  • Chronic pain
  • Impulsiveness
  • Aggressiveness
  • Major loss (breakup, death, even divorce)
  • Substance abuse

Even if these risks are not applicable to your teen right now, it’s important to know what you do next if they do become a reality.

Warning Signs of Suicide

If your teen is thinking about suicide, the signs aren’t always obvious. Luckily, there are many small things that, when you know what to look for, can give you the clue you may need to save their life. Here are some of the most common warning signs:

  • Changes in behavior, including moodiness, defensiveness, irritability, frequent crying.
  • Talking or joking about suicide, saying things like, “I’d be better off dead.”
  • Romanticizing death in conversation or writing.
  • Engaging in reckless behavior.
  • Feeling of worthlessness. They may say things like, “Nothing matters,” or “Who cares about me anyway?”

What Can You Do?

While the statics are scary, you and your teen are far from helpless. There are many things you can do to keep your teen safe, at home and at school. Try some of these ideas:

Talk about suicide:

This doesn’t need to be a regular topic of conversation, but pretending its not there is a mistake. Talk to your teen about suicide: what it means, and why it happens; don’t forget to discuss the many people who are there for them to talk to about things that feel unbearable. If you’re open about it, your teen may be too.

Get involved at school:

If there are no programs already in place, work with your teen’s school to make prevention and awareness programs available to all students. There are many advocacy groups that work with parents, teachers and administrators to get programs like this in schools.

Get tough about Internet safety:

Programs like NetNanny make it possible for you to keep an eye on your teen’s activity online, which can help you catch early warning signs. Be sure to turn on features such as “alerts and reporting,” which provide you with consistent insights about your teen’s online activity. Don’t forget “social media monitoring” as well, to get insight into potential threats related to your teens “friends.”

What You Can Do To Prevent Teen Suicide

If you suspect anything, immediately reach out for help by calling the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. Other actions to take include:

  • Listen: Don’t criticize or pass judgment if your teen opens up to you about thoughts of suicide or depression (which is a trigger for suicide). Just listen and offer help when asked.
  • Be persistent (and gentle): If your teen doesn’t open up right away, be persistent without being aggressive. Respect their comfort level while staying close and available.
  • Trust yourself: If your teen says nothing is wrong, but you can tell something is, call the hotline or go to a school counselor, mental health professional or teacher.

Teenagers have always been a moody bunch, and with the advent of social media and increased access to firearms, it can quickly become more than that. Talk with your teen, be in tune with their life, and take immediate action if you’re ever concerned. There are plenty or resources available to you and your kids, ready to be used whenever necessary.