Adolescent suicide is a major issue that affects thousands of families each year. According to the Center for Disease and Control, it is the third leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 24.
There are about 157,000 cases of adolescents who inflict self-harm reported in hospitals across the United States each year with approximately 4,600 resulting in death, while one in five teenagers seriously think about it.
There can be many risk factors for adolescents, especially teens, when it comes to suicide. Both boys and girls are at risk. Although studies show that more girls attempt to commit suicide, boys are more likely to actually succeed in their attempts than girls are. So how do you know if your child is at risk?
A person’s cultural background can play a role as to how likely they may be inclined to commit suicide. Native Americans have an increased rate of adolescent suicide as opposed to other cultural groups, as does the Native Alaskan population. People of Hispanic descent are also more likely to report attempting suicide in contrast to other non-Hispanic populations.
However, many warning signs are not dependent on gender or ethnicity. If your child or family has a history of depression, suicide, mental illness, or substance abuse, then your child may have an increased risk of becoming suicidal. Teenagers and young adults who have difficulty handling extreme challenges such as domestic, physical or sexual abuse, bullying, disciplinary issues, or dealing with grief or other types of loss such as divorce, are also at risk.
Of course, not all signs are visible or noticeable. In some instances an adolescent or teen may show no signs of depression at all. The American Psychological Association says that other possible warning signs are:
- Changes in personality or behavior
- Changes in sleep patterns or eating habits
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Talking or joking about dying or committing suicide
It is important to have conversations with your child on a regular basis to let them know they can always talk to you about any problems they may have. Sometimes just being there as a good listener can help.
Naturally, it may be uncomfortable talking about some of these issues; however, bringing them out into the open so their feelings can be expressed is important. When talking, pay attention to your child’s feelings and emotions to see if there are any red flags of a deeper problem.
If your child or someone you know seems like they may be exhibiting some of these problems, contact your family doctor or a mental health professional immediately. You can also contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit them online at http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Suicide, especially in adolescents, is a terrible tragedy that can be prevented. If you know of anyone who may be struggling, please don’t wait to call. You may just save a life.