Perhaps you or your teens have watched the popular Neftflix series, Thirteen Reasons Why (based on the novel by Jay Asher), which is about the tragic harm that bullying can do and how it can lead to teen suicide. I watched the series and found it to be compelling.
I strongly advise that parents who plan to let their tweens or teens watch the series should watch it with them. Watching the series with your son or daughter is a good way to open up discussion with them about such topics as bullying and suicide that they may be reluctant to discuss with you otherwise.
I warn, however, that the suicide scene is graphic and can be upsetting to tweens or teens. It was upsetting to me.
If you and your teenagers watch the series, be sure to watch the 30 minute trailer at the end of the entire series. The actors, and producers of the series, as well as psychologists, discuss with the viewers the impact of what they just viewed in the series – the impact of bullying – and the very real impact and prevalence of teen suicide.
Teen suicide is a serious problem. This blog post provides information about its causes, strategies for detecting the signs for potential suicide, and its prevention.
According to both the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the Center for Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth ages 15 to 24. Teen suicide affects everyone. Family and friends feel a guilty sense that if they had only done something different, the suicide could have been prevented. Therefore, it’s important to understand its causes, how to detect potential suicidal vulnerability, and how to help prevent it.
Causes of Teen Suicide
As teens grow up, they often feel stress, self-doubt, confusion, social and interaction problems with friends, peer pressure, concerns about succeeding, and pressure to meet parental expectations. Some teens suffer from clinical depression as well. Most teenagers experience such feelings to a certain degree at some point in their growing years. Those who are overwhelmed with such feelings and are unable to deal with them are more at risk for suicide.
There are several causes for teenagers to potentially want to take their own lives. Anxiety or depression left untreated can be a contributing factor. Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness can cause teenagers to contemplate ending their lives. Other contributing factors are lack of success in school, bullying at school, violence at home, divorce, death of a loved one, rejection by peers, and the suicide of a friend.
According to the Center for Disease Control, such pressures of life make it too difficult for some teens to cope. As a result, sometimes overwhelmed teens welcome suicide as an escape from the pressure and pain.
Detecting Teen Depression and Potentially Suicidal Teens
According the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, parents should be on the lookout for specific signs in their children that could be indicators for a potential suicide risk. Such indicators include withdrawal from family and friends, as well as a lack of interest in activities the teens formerly enjoyed. Parents should look for any change in eating and sleeping habits or in hygiene and personal appearance.
In addition, parents should watch for personality changes and rebellious or violent behavior. Difficulty concentrating, decline in the quality of school work, and persistent boredom and malaise are possible signs as well. Persistent complaints of stomach aches, headaches and fatigue could be symptoms of emotional problems that can be signs of potential suicidal tendencies.
Equally important signs to watch for include statements from teens that they are bad and that they feel terrible inside. Other verbal hints include such statements as, “I won’t be a problem for you much longer. It’s no use. Nothing matters anyway.” Such statements from teens are clear indicators that they may be at least contemplating suicide.
If teenagers start giving away cherished possessions or throwing away favorite belongings, a way of getting their affairs in order, parents should consider such behavior an indicator of the risk for suicide. In addition, parents should watch for any signs of hallucinations or bizarre or strange thoughts.
Teen Suicide Prevention
According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, if teens threaten to commit suicide, parents should take the threat seriously and immediately seek professional help from a qualified mental health professional. Parents should not hesitate to ask their teens if they have suicidal thoughts. Such a question will not put the idea into children’s heads, but will, instead, assure teens that someone cares and open up an opportunity for discussion about it.
Parents should determine if their teens are suffering from depression and, if so, get medical treatment for the depression. Counseling is a good preventive strategy for depressed or potentially suicidal teens as well. Counseling can provide teens with coping strategies for dealing with their life problems. Frequently, once teens learn how to cope with problems, their suicidal desires dissipate.
It is essential for parents to treat their teens with understanding, compassion and respect. Parents should demonstrate unconditional love, offer emotional support, and make their teens feel important, loved and wanted. Parents should demonstrate to their teens that overcoming their problems and life challenges is possible and that they will help them with such challenges.