Our society has a way of acting as if suicidal ideation in teens is like a rare disease–something unfortunate that only happens every now and then. This idea is completely unfounded. Suicide continues to be the second leading cause of death for young people, ages 10 to 24. That’s not a rare disease, that’s a plague.
September is National Suicide Awareness Month. For this month, we want to make an effort to inform others about suicidal ideation in teens and how to prevent suicides.
What is suicidal ideation in teens?
Suicidal ideation is having thoughts about suicide and/or planning suicide. These thoughts/plans can be fleeting or extremely detailed. Suicidal ideation does not include the act of committing suicide–it’s the before phase. For many, thoughts never reach fruition, but that doesn’t make suicidal ideation in teens any less dangerous.
A teen experiencing suicidal ideation probably struggles with mental health issues that need to be addressed.
Recognizing the signs in your child
Wellness doesn’t just include physical health, it includes mental health as well. Problems with physical health are easy to see–fevers, scraped knees, fairly straightforward. Checking in on mental health poses more challenges. A student with perfect health could easily be struggling with suicidal ideation in teens.
Some red flags to watch for in your teen:
- Extreme mood swings
- Issues concentrating on regular day-to-day tasks
- Problems sleeping (insomnia, oversleeping, nightmares)
- Loss of appetite or excessive overeating
- Mentioning dying, disappearing, or self-harm
While signs and symptoms don’t necessarily indicate your child is thinking of suicide, they still should not be ignored.
How to talk to your teen about suicidal thoughts
Ask your teen how they’re doing and listen.
Parents have this horrible habit of not listening–I know that’s hard to hear as a parent. Teens often report feeling like their parents don’t actually listen to what they’re saying and feeling. This has to change. Approach your teen with the intent of really listening to what they’re experiencing and then validate those feelings. This includes actively listening, asking them questions to clarify, and staying non-judgemental.
Do not freak out.
Individuals struggling with suicidal ideation in teens often don’t want to reach out because they’re afraid someone will freak out or it’ll be embarrassing. No, I’m not saying it’s not incredibly alarming to hear from your child that they’re contemplating suicide–but you have to stay calm for their sake. It won’t be an easy conversation.
Ask clarifying questions.
Parents easily jump into “help” mode when a problem arises. Resist the urge to jump straight into talking about treatment. A teen saying they’ve been thinking about suicide can mean many things. It can mean they’re not getting something they need, that they don’t want to feel intense emotions, or that they’ve actually planned how to do it. All of these are very serious, but asking questions to clarify where your child stands is an important step.
Reach out to a professional.
After talking with your child, you need to reach out to a professional to help guide you in the right direction. Keep your teen in the loop with all of this. It’s important for them to understand how they’re going to receive help and that you’re doing this as a family, not alone.
Viewpoint Center helps with suicidal ideation in teens
ViewPoint Center is an assessment center for teens, ages 12 to 17. At ViewPoint Center, we provide treatment through superior assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and stabilization–all in a personalized environment for your child in crisis. We strive to provide the best help for teens through the most efficient and effective methods available. Our goal is to help your child through this hard time.
Before ViewPoint, families are often frustrated and lost. Varying doctors and therapists with a range of advice, diagnoses, and plans leaves parents and children unsure of where to turn. At ViewPoint, we centralize all of the different diagnoses and create a comprehensive report for you and your family to get back on track. Let us help you.