By Charmaine Caldwell, PhD, LPC-S
Studies show that 9 of 10 teens who took their own lives were struggling with mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression. As a parent, how can one know what is going on in their teen’s mind and heart when they are not talking to you? You can listen even when your child is not talking. Watch for major changes in moods, attitudes, including stress levels, confusion, fear, doubt, and strong feelings that may not be understood. Your teen may choose to self-isolate, especially if there is a major change in your child’s social life. For some, normal developmental changes can be very unsettling when combined with other events such as changes in families, changes in friendships, problems in school, losses of many types.
Other things in teen’s lives that may cause them to think about ending their lives could include:
- Loss of interest in usual activities,
- Acting-out behaviors and running away,
- Obsession with death and dying,
- Physical complaints often linked to emotional distress (fatigue, headaches, tiredness),
- Loss of interest in school or schoolwork, friends, fun activities, family,
- Feelings everyone else would be better off if he or she were “gone”,
- Lack of response to praise.
Parents take note. Depression is a key factor in most suicides. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of depression (sadness, hopelessness, loneliness, declining school performance, loss of interest in social and sports activities, sleeping too much or too little, nervousness, agitation, or irritability). Symptomology is very similar in the case of suicidal ideation and depression.
Keep an open line of communication with your child/teen. If you ask about something that happened a short while ago, and they say, “I don’t remember,” this could be a warning sign that either they don’t want to talk about something that happened, or there may be a problem with their memory. Neither should be ignored. If they answer, “I don’t know,” almost always they do know and just do not want to talk about what happened.
These two answers are key red flags to alert you to some problem your child may be having. Do not dismiss “teenage drama.” “I just want to die,” “I don’t care anymore,” “Nothing matters,” “You won’t have to worry about me much longer,” are words that indicate an urgent need for help. Take every statement about suicide seriously.
If you have concerns about your teen/child, call Samaritan Center today at 432-563-4144 to schedule a visit with a counselor or psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. You can call 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline; Boys Town at 1-800-448-3000; or 911.